Younger Americans head to rural areas to get COVID-19 vaccines

LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — Many Americans are signing up for the COVID-19 vaccine as eligibility opens to more adults across the country. But it’s not fast enough for a lot of younger people who’ve figured out a hack; many have become vaccine nomads, traveling out of their residential areas to get vaccinated.

In Southern California, thousands of residents have been flocking two hours north of Los Angeles to Bakersfield, a rural and fairly industrial city. Vaccination sites in Kern County have opened up to all adults, without any residential restrictions, due to a lack of local demand.

About 40 states have already opened up vaccinations to all over the age of 16. All states are set to open up eligibility for all American adults for a coronavirus vaccine by April 19, but in many rural areas, there’s a major surplus in doses.

Many who live in and around Bakersfield do not want the vaccine.

“I just don’t see a point in it. The fact that death rates and all that hasn’t really changed, doesn’t really matter,” said Alexander Muro, who lives near Bakersfield. “I mean, it happens every once in a while in history. Some pandemic has to happen, people survive, people are going to die. It is what it is.”

The vaccine-hesitant are benefitting the vaccine impatient. And they’re avoiding crowds, lines and waits by showing up in places like Amarillo, Texas, Lonoke, Arkansas, and Bakersfield, north of L.A. County.

“I mean, they had extra vaccine, so it’s way better to put it to good use than waste it,” said Lauren Melvin, a Thousand Oaks, California resident.                                             

“A lot of areas where they don’t really believe in masking, or even COVID itself, seems like there’s a lot more opportunity to get it because not many people are getting it,” said Matt Burns, a Culver City, California resident. “So we’re happy to drive the extra bit of time to get our shot.”

Some Bakersfield residents told NewsNation they welcome the outsiders since they don’t want or trust the vaccine. Those who work at the Cal State Bakersfield site are happy to serve the urban influx.

“The number one goal is to put as many shots in people’s arms as we possibly can,” said David Womack, California State University, Bakersfield Vaccination Hub Lead.

Illinois is opening up vaccinations to all adults on Monday, but impatient Chicagoans have been fanning out to rural sites or crossing the state line into Northwest Indiana.

“You can register online but if people walk up and drive up, if we’ve got the vaccine, and you’ve got the spots, we’re gonna put it in arms,” said Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Christina Box.

Surplus shots are also a draw in Arkansas. One pharmacy east of Little Rock has seen limited local demand for the vaccine.

According to a study by Kaiser, 13% of Americans say they will definitely not get the COVID vaccine.
For now, many among the rest are rushing to places like Bakersfield because waiting just another week longer is just too long.

“The other thing is, we don’t really have much to do right now. We’re all in quarantine. So it’s a week we could be back working, it’s kind of significant when you think about it,” said Alan Clark, a Los Angeles resident.