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There are no open areas, no pharmacies. Rural communities in the United States are facing the decline of vaccine recognition

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URGENT, V. (AP) – When Charlom Pierce searched for where his 96-year-old father could get the COVID-19 vaccine in January, he found zero options near their home in Virginia. There was no single medical clinic in Surry County, the last pharmacy in an area of ​​about 6,500 people, a larger plot of land than Chicago closed years ago.

To get their shots, some residents took a ferry across the Ames River to cities such as Williamsburg. Others drove for more than an hour to farms and forests when the county received its first traffic light in 2007 to reach a medical facility that offered the vaccine.

For a moment, Pierce heard about a state vaccination event 45 minutes away. There were no other appointments, which was for the best. It was expected that the wait would last seven hours.

“It would be a terrible task,” he said, referring to his father’s health և frequent use of the toilet. “I could not force him to get in the car and wait for something to happen. We are not in a third world country. ”

As the nation’s coronavirus campaign moves from mass vaccination sites to pharmacies and doctors’ offices, vaccination remains a challenge in “pharmacy deserts” for residents of communities without pharmacies or well-stocked medical clinics. To improve accessibility, ”the federal government has partnered with 21 companies to operate free pharmacies or drugstore services in grocery stores and elsewhere.

More than 40,000 stores are expected to attend, the Biden administration said, with nearly 90 percent of Americans living within one to five miles of Hy-Vee, Walmart, and Costco and Rite-Aid.

But there are gaps in the map. More than 400 rural areas with a total population of about 2.5 million people do not have a retail pharmacy included in the partnership. More than 100 of these districts either do not have a pharmacy or have a pharmacy that has not historically offered services such as flu shots, and may not have the equipment or certified staff to vaccinate customers.

Independent pharmacies that traditionally served rural areas are disappearing, mail-order prescription losses are disappearing և more competition with Walgreen և CVS chains, which have more power to negotiate with insurance companies, says Keith Müller of RUPRI Center, University of Iowa Director: Rural health policy analysis.

“There are a lot of areas that will be left out of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program,” said Mueller, whose research center compiled data for pharmacies in 400 counties. “Especially in the western states, you have a huge geography, very few people.”

The challenges of getting the vaccine at home are not limited to rural areas. In some urban areas, particularly for black Americans, there is a relative shortage of medical facilities, according to a February study by the Center for Western Health Policy at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy.

The study listed 69 countries where Black Sea residents were much more likely to have to travel more than a mile to reach a vaccine site, including a pharmacy, hospital or federal health facility. One-third of those counties were urban, including home states such as Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Detroit, and New Orleans.

In addition, the study found 94 countries where black people are significantly more likely than white people to travel 10 miles to a potential vaccination site. The United States was mainly concentrated in the southeastern United States. Virginia had the highest of 16 states in 16 և Texas.

Lack of pharmacy and other medical facilities in some rural areas of the country has exacerbated health inconsistencies exacerbated by the coronavirus epidemic, which has disproportionately affected members of racial minorities and low-income groups.

The former pharmacy in the Sur region, where about 40% of the population is black, is now a café. No one seems to remember exactly when Surry Drug was. The company closed, but Sara Mayo, the cafe’s co-owner, remembers going there as a child. He now drives to Walmart or CVS in 45 minutes.

“I do not know if more people will get the vaccine,” said Mayo, 62, if the pharmacy still exists. “But at least you would have a local person you trust who would explain the pros and cons.”

Surrey residents were also taking prescriptions at a nearby Wakefield Pharmacy in Sussex until the closure in November. The owner, Russell Alan Garner, wanted to retire but could not find a buyer.

“We became dinosaurs,” Garner said.

In January, Surrey officials saw the vaccines coming to other parts of Virginia, where more people or more were infected with the coronavirus. Fearing that the doses might not last for months, they began pressuring government officials.

In a letter to the governor’s office, Suri joined the surrounding communities in raising concerns about the “justice” of the vaccine, particularly among other low-income people. Some in those communities said they had redistributed money to support the vaccination effort.

“The problem with living in a rural community is that you are always ignored by everyone, from politicians to agencies,” said county superintendent Michael Dreyer.

Surry County Administrator Melissa Rollins wrote a letter to the regional health department stating that driving outside the county is impractical for most residents. He said that Suri is ready to sponsor the mass vaccination site, has developed a program to recruit people who can film, to make sure that the relevant residents will be ready.

On February 6, the first clinic in the Surrey area was held at Dendro High School in the small town. The school district was vaccinating teachers and other staff when officials in the county’s district health department learned of the additional doses, which prompted word of it.

Surry already had a list of eligible voters to reach out to vulnerable residents. It has used its emergency warning phone system as internet access is scarce.

Pierce called and hurried out with his father, Charles Robbins. It took 20 minutes to get to high school, two hours to wait. Pierce, 64, was also shot dead along with about 240 others that day.

Three vaccination clinics have been set up in the county. As of March 2, the regional health district had administered 1,080 doses. The number is the majority of the population received in the district, or several hundred received their staff outside the district.

Everyone says that about 1800 residents of the county received at least one dose. It makes up about 28% of the population, almost twice the national average. About half of those vaccinated are black.

The Virginia Department of Health reports that the distribution of vaccines is based on չության COVID levels in the population. But moving forward, the department said it was considering amendments to ensure more geographical and racial justice.

Pierce և his father rested when they received the second shot in late February. But he said Suri’s rural character had put him at a disadvantage at first.

“I have close friends, people who are essential workers who had to go an hour away to shoot,” he said. “You should not be marginalized by your zip code.”

But driving long distances is the lifeblood of many villagers, says Bruce Adams, a cattle-breeding commissioner in San Juan County, Utah, who is about the size of New Jersey and the Navajo nation.

“I got two shots. I had to drive 44 miles for each of them to the public health center,” said Adams, 71. “I do not think it is more of a problem than anything else we usually do in our lives. “Go to the doctor, the dentist, your haircut.”

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