CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Even as vaccines became more available, COVID-19 vaccination rates have dropped in Carter and Johnson Counties.
In Carter County, vaccinations peaked the week of March 12, when 1,181 people received their first dose of the vaccine. That weekly number remained above a thousand until the week of April 9, and was down to 246 last week.
Carter County residents told News Channel 11 they hope everyone decides to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but they also believe that it should be a choice, and they understand that there are some who just don’t want to take the shot.
“I think it just should be up to the person because I’ve heard both sides, you know, people like it, some do, some don’t,” Michael Reagan, a Carter County resident said. “Let the person decide.”
With the vaccination rates in Carter County the lowest in the Northeast Tennessee region, some who work in Carter County said they still have some degree of concern when they are around other people because of the uncertainty of whether people have gotten vaccinated.
“It took me a minute to figure out if I was going to get vaccinated, but I weigh both the risks and pros of it and felt like being vaccinated was the better choice out of the two,” Rachel Roden, who works in Carter County, told News Channel 11. “I continue to wear my mask whenever I’m around people; I only don’t wear it whenever I know others have been vaccinated, but I am still very cautious when I go to Walmart or when I go anywhere to wear my mask.”
As for why folks in that area are choosing not to get vaccinated, Maude Buchanan, a lifelong Carter County resident, said she thinks people just need time to make a decision.
“I just think everybody’s got mixed feelings right now,” she said.
The goal to many who have — and even some who have not been vaccinated — is to convince those unvaccinated to get the shot.
“I’d say ‘get it’ because, you know, it makes a lot of difference for everything to open back up and for everything to get back to normal,” Buchanan said.
She told News Channel 11 that she has already gotten both her COVID-19 vaccine doses. Reagan said he had not yet received his, but plans to get it soon.
“In my opinion, I think people should get it,” he said. “Get [COVID-19] out of here, I mean, it’s been here long enough, so we need to get rid of it.”
First Tennessee Development District’s Lottie Ryans said the Take a Shot on Life campaign is planning vaccination events in both Carter and Johnson Counties.
“Part of the purpose of ‘take a shot’ was to make sure we could get access, you know, whether access was within specific communities or access was in more our more rural areas, so we are partnering, for example, with volunteer fire departments, with school systems; we’ll be reaching out to Ruritan clubs, so we’re really looking — just like we do with the churches — at places people are comfortable with the people who run them, they’re comfortable with the facility because it’s right in their community,” she said. “And we are interested and willing to work with any organization who might want to be a host site.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that those who are fully vaccinated can remove their masks indoors in many circumstances. Ryans said her hope is to provide access to more and more of the Northeast Tennessee region so that everyone can ditch the mask.
“As we see some of the CDC guidelines, for example, lifting, it’s really all about people who’ve been vaccinated, so we want to help everyone have that opportunity to get the vaccination so they can get on with their life and be around friends and family, loved ones and just do the things they would like to do, so, we are available to you,” she said.
Events are already in the works in Johnson County, and Ryans said plans will soon be made for Carter as well. Times and dates for those events have yet to be released.