MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — While millions of people are fighting for their chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine, tens of thousands of others are refusing to get the shot and public health officials in Manatee County are tasked with trying to figure out why.

What You Need To Know

  • Manatee County is 1 of 3 in country involved in project

  • Goal is to find out why people are choosing to not get vaccinated

  • The project is expected to run through July

  • More Coronavirus headlines

The Florida Department of Health Manatee County is one of just three health departments in the country chosen to be a part of a major vaccine hesitancy study. The other two counties selected are located in Iowa and Washington state.

The project is being administered by the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The goal is to find out why people are choosing to not get vaccinated, help battle the misconceptions, and give more inoculations in communities with low vaccination rates.

“We wanted to make sure that minorities and underserved populations, hard to serve populations are getting the vaccine,” explained Runa Badal, director of Community Health for the Department of Health Manatee County. 

Public health officials worry that if too many people are reluctant to getting the vaccine, it could affect herd immunity and stretch the pandemic on even longer.

By taking the time to figure out why certain communities or demographics are more resistant to getting the vaccine, and finding ways to battle those misconceptions, public health officials believe it will be better for everyone in the long run.

“Communities that are impacted by this lack of information are provided with the right approach as we move forward with trying to obtain herd immunity,” explained Edwin Hernandez, the county’s clinical director.

Manatee County was selected because of its diverse population not only when it comes to race, but also due to the number of migrant farm workers and homeless who reside in the area.

Lilly Kan with the National Association of County and City Health Officials said Manatee County was the perfect fit for the study.

“These are populations that have traditionally been greater risk for infection or severe disease,” she said.

Manatee County will be provided funding to hire a consultant to kick the project off. It is expected to run through July 2021.