Why are MI border counties seeing such low vaccination rates?


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Counties on the southern border of our state are seeing some of the lowest vaccination rates in Michigan, which has health departments concerned.

The percentage of residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine is below 40% in each Hillsdale, Branch, St. Joseph and Cass counties. In some cases, the difference between those counties and counties north is more than 20%. Of the southwestern counties, only Berrien is above 40%.

If the numbers don’t pick up, it could delay further reopening of our state under benchmarks set by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week.

“What we are hearing from people living in the tri-county area is an extreme amount of reluctance to receive the vaccine,” Rebecca Burns, the health officer for Branch, Hillsdale and St. Joseph counties, said.

“A lot of (what health officials are hearing) comes from our social media page and the information we are seeing people put on there,” she continued. “We have individuals who post on our page misinformation.”

Burns says articles shared contain false information that residents refuse to fact-check.

The tri-county area saw a drop-off in vaccination rates once it was made available to everyone. Vaccines fell from 1,000 doses per day down to between 100 and 300. 

“Almost like falling off a cliff,” Burns said.

The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency says it will continue to share the message about the safety of the vaccine, along with stories about why people are getting the shots.  

“Hope that we can continue, one dose at a time, every single day increase that percentage,” Burns said.

Another part of the problem could be that some residents were vaccinated at clinics in Indiana. If that’s true for you, the state is asking you show your health care provider your vaccine card to ensure you are included in Michigan’s vaccination numbers.

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