Rural Americans Lend Their Voices to Encourage Others to Get Vaccinated

Ad Council ad shows a man and two children walking through farm field

Photo Credit: Ad Council video

According to data from the Rural Policy Research Institute, rural Americans are dying of COVID-19 at more than twice the rate of people living in urban communities.

Since March 2020, one in 434 rural Americans have died from COVID-19, compared with roughly one in 513 urban Americans. Unlike deaths in urban areas, the vaccine rollout has not slowed COVID-19 fatalities in rural parts of the country due to low uptake. Short-staffed hospitals and limited access to health care also are contributing factors, the report showed.

The Ad Council and COVID Collaborative, a national assembly of experts, leaders and organizations in health, education and the economy aimed at turning the tide on the pandemic, partnered with the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Cooperative Extension System and others to release new public service announcements featuring rural Americans from across the country. The PSAs showcase the firsthand impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines for seven individuals and families, encouraging others who may still be questioning the vaccines to seek accurate information about getting vaccinated.

The PSAs highlight experiences from a wide variety of individuals, including Nathan Buerkle, a Haskell, Texas, pharmacist, and his wife, Mary Jane, who own and operate the local drug store. The Buerkles know the struggles that the town’s only hospital, Haskell Memorial, has faced throughout this crisis, including lack of lifesaving equipment, overcapacity, and health care worker shortages. The Buerkles are doing everything they can to help local residents get informed and get vaccinated.

“It’s important to study the science to learn about the vaccine. We owed that responsibility to our community,” said Mary Buerkle. “It’s frustrating when I see people spreading misinformation about the vaccine. We make sure people have accurate information so they can make their own decision.”

Other rural Americans featured in the PSA series include a football coach in North Carolina, newlyweds in Mississippi, family farmers in Kansas and Georgia, a lifelong cowboy in Texas and a self-proclaimed "sports mom" in Georgia. Each one opens up about the hardships and losses they faced during the pandemic and why they decided to get vaccinated.

The full series of seven stories can be viewed here on YouTube.