THEDFORD, Neb.—Shannon Vanderheiden brought 100 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to a fire station in this village of about 200 people last week, hoping to make a dent in Western Nebraska’s vaccination rates, which rank near the bottom of the country.
Ms. Vanderheiden and her staff waited with the doses from Moderna Inc. in a cooler for more than two hours. In that time, three people showed up.
“We know the longer the vaccine is out, there will be people who change their minds,” said Ms. Vanderheiden, director of the West Central District Health Department, which covers six Nebraska counties. Wearing a pink “vaccine machine” shirt, she is trying to persuade people in one of the most rural and least vaccinated areas in America to protect themselves against the new coronavirus.
In Thomas County, population 722, including Thedford, 17.5% of adults and 40.3% of senior citizens have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Several surrounding sparsely populated counties have rates that are similar or lower. Nationally, 37.8% of people 18-and-older, and 68.3% of people 65-and-older, are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
When more than 40% of adults are fully vaccinated, it could mark an important threshold in tamping down the spread of Covid-19, many public-health researchers believe. But the number of shots given nationwide each day is slowing.