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A tiny, rural, Republican NY boasts one of the highest vaccination rates in the country


Hamilton County, New York – a small, rural, Republican-leaning county northwest of Albany – has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, busting stereotypes about who’s willing to get the shot.

The county boast a vaccination rate of 65 percent – strongly outpacing the national average of 37 percent who are fully vaccinated, according to federal data and an analysis by ABC News.

That flies in the face of some surveys that have shown Republicans to be less-apt to get the vaccine: In January, only about 40 percent of Republicans said they would get the vaccine, according to a YouGov/Economist poll. 

The latest poll, taken last week of 1,500 adults, shows Republicans are accepting the vaccine in greater numbers: 62 percent of Republican respondents said they had or would get the vaccine; 87 percent of Democrats said they’d get theirs.

Hamilton County is mostly Republican, with 68 per cent of the vote going to former President Donald Trump during the 2020 election.     

Hamilton County is entirely in the federally protected Adirondack Park, which doesn’t allow for development, and has a population of less than 4,836, according to the 2010 Census, which is the least populated county in the state

Residents receive COVID-19 shots at Wells Community Hall vaccination site, a former school gym, in Hamilton, County, New York

Residents receive COVID-19 shots at Wells Community Hall vaccination site, a former school gym, in Hamilton, County, New York

County Board Chairman told ABC News that Hamilton County is 'very, very rural'

County Board Chairman told ABC News that Hamilton County is ‘very, very rural’

There are infrastructure and technology challenges, including spotty broadband and cell service, and doesn't have any hospitals or pharmacies, ABC News reported. Here is Route 8 in the village of Speculator in Hamilton County

There are infrastructure and technology challenges, including spotty broadband and cell service, and doesn’t have any hospitals or pharmacies, ABC News reported. Here is Route 8 in the village of Speculator in Hamilton County

Hamilton County has a 65 per cent vaccination rate, compared to the 36 per cent national average

Hamilton County has a 65 per cent vaccination rate, compared to the 36 per cent national average 

County Board Chairman said he hopes the CDC's relaxed mask guidelines urges the vaccine holdouts to get the shot

County Board Chairman said he hopes the CDC’s relaxed mask guidelines urges the vaccine holdouts to get the shot

The latest YouGov/Economist poll found that 69 percent of adults have had a first dose, are fully vaccinated or plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19

The latest YouGov/Economist poll found that 69 percent of adults have had a first dose, are fully vaccinated or plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19 

The county is entirely in the federally protected Adirondack Park, which doesn’t allow for development,  and has a population of less than 4,836, according to the 2010 Census, which is the least populated county in the state. 

There are infrastructure and technology challenges, including spotty broadband and cell service, and doesn’t have any hospitals or pharmacies, ABC News reported.   

Combine all the factors, and it could equal low vaccine rates, local officials said, but they’ve bucked that idea.  

‘We’ve watched nationally, this political fight over COVID,’ Hamilton County Board Chairman Bill Farber, a Republican told ABC News.  ‘We defied the odds, didn’t we?’ 

"Rather than getting caught up in it being a Republican or a Democrat issue, it really was seen as a community issue," Hamilton Coutny Board Chairman Bill Farber told ABC News.

‘Rather than getting caught up in it being a Republican or a Democrat issue, it really was seen as a community issue,’ Hamilton Coutny Board Chairman Bill Farber told ABC News.

That was in large part because the vaccination push was a grassroots effort detached from political warfare, Farber told ABC News.  

Schools and a fire house became vaccination sites, and business owners provided the county with lists of their employees as soon as they were eligible to be vaccinated, Farber told the news outlet. 

Information spread by word of mouth. 

Instead of hearing a politician say get vaccinated, people in Hamilton County heard it from a trusted friend or neighbor, he said. 

‘Rather than getting caught up in it being a Republican or a Democrat issue, it really was seen as a community issue,’ Farber told ABC News. ‘I think that was our saving grace.’ 

And the county itself had ‘pandemic plan’ in place for over a decade that included  schools, the fire department, ambulance squad, law enforcement and community leaders, ABC News reported, something most small, rural areas across the country didn’t have pre-2020. 

Technology barriers were overcome by volunteers, like Adele Burnett, jumping into action, and the county opened clinics to best match the availability of the next eligible group of people, ABC News reported.  

When Burnett, director of tourism in Inlet, one of the small towns in Hamilton, heard the health department needed help registering people for vaccines, she teamed up with other members of the local COVID-19 task force to put together lists of people they knew were eligible to get vaccinated and called to see if they could register them for vaccines, according to ABC News.

“We’d actually pick up the phone and start making calls,” she told the news outlet. “They didn’t have to sit there on the computer refreshing the page.”

While 100 per cent vaccination is likely out of reach for any place, including Hamilton County, Farber told ABC News that the CDC’s relax mask-wearing guidelines for fully vaccinated people might compel some of the holdouts.  



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