Tennessee Tries Out Messaging That Might Overcome Rural Vaccine Reluctance

Apr 16, 2021

This week, Franklin-based telepharmacy company AdhereRx was offering vaccines in Hartsville. The company has targeted rural communities where there's more hesitancy and fewer access points.
Credit Blake Farmer, WPLN

Tennessee is looking for messaging that might overcome COVID vaccine reluctance in rural communities, as health officials prepare public service announcements to be used in the coming months.

A marketing firm hired by the state found Tennesseans reluctant to get the vaccine and drilled down to understand why and what might change their mind. Most people interviewed said there wasn’t much that could convince them. Few were moved by arguments about personal responsibility or reopening the economy.

But there is more openness to the idea of getting vaccinated for the health of their loved ones, according to the firm.

More: Download the results here.

“We don’t want to discount anybody, even though there may be some folks who indicated they are extremely unwilling to get the vaccine,” says Sarah Tanksley, communications director for the Tennessee Department of Health. “At any point in time, there may be something that resonates with them, or they have a lightbulb moment.”

Beyond a public service campaign that will first be online, then on broadcast, state health officials also plan to informally offer their findings as talking points to community leaders.

They have a steep hill to climb: A health department survey also released this week found 45% of white, rural conservatives are unwilling to even consider getting the COVID vaccine right now.