The Outliers: Let's look at the 179 counties which don't fit the narrative.

COVID-19 Vaccine

A few weeks ago I posted a look at the county-level COVID-19 vaccination rate outliers...the counties which don't fit the main pattern of heavily-Trump counties having low vaccination rates and heavily-Biden counties having high vaccination rates.

At the time, I sliced all 3,100+ counties across all 50 states + DC into 9 regions based on a 3x3 grid:

  • Vaccination rates: Under 40%, 40-60%, over 60%
  • Trump 2020 vote: Under 40%, 40-60%, over 60%

I then dug deeper into two of these: Low-Trump/Low-Vaxx counties and High-Trump/High-Vaxx counties.

I found 77 counties in the first category...the population in 62 of which is more than 40% Black (and another 7 are majority Native American).

At the opposite corner, there were only 4 of which includes The Villages, the massive, MAGA retirement community. I didn't have much insight into the other 3.

Today I'm updating this analysis with two major differences. First, of course, several million more Americans have gotten vaccinated since then, so all of the rates will be higher; second, I'm narrowing the range further from 40-60% to 45-55% to seen how that looks.

First, here again is the updated county-level graph (as of yesterday)L

If you break them into a 3x3 grid at the 45 - 55% thresholds, you get this...

...which looks like this by the numbers:

...and when you remove the 45-55% counties it looks like this:

...which breaks out as follows:

The upper-left and lower-right quadrants are, of course, perfectly in line with the Red/Blue partisan divide I've been talking about, but what about the outliers in the lower-left and upper-right quadrants?

First, let's look at the upper-right quadrant: 33 HIGH-TRUMP, HIGH-VAXX counties:

The most obvious thing they have in common, besides high Trump support, of course, is that 28 of the 33 have a solid White majority. The outliers are Rosebud, MT (39% Native American); West Feliciana, LA (44% Black); San Juan, NM (42% Native American); Bristol Bay, AK (mostly split between White, Native American and Other People of Color); and the E. Aleutians (44% Asian American).

There's a few of these counties where the reason for them being an outlier makes sense such as Sumter County, FL (pop. 132K), which is home to The Villages, the massive retirement community where Trump infamously held some of his biggest rallies last summer. For most of them, however, I don't know enough to speculate as to what the demographic makeup is (beyond ethnic and political), or other local factors, to speculate as to why they're punching above their weight, so to speak.

These counties also have a slightly lower average percent of children under 12 years old than most of the country, which actually makes the 58.7% vaccination rate slightly more impressive since it's being divided into a higher denominator of potentially vaccinated residents. It's also worth noting that there are fewer than 500,000 unvaccinated (or only partly-vaccinated) residents over 11 years old in these 33 counties combined.

Next, let's look at the lower-right quadrant: 146 LOW-TRUMP, LOW-VAXX counties:

With the range expanded from < 40% to < 45% on both the X and Y axis, the number of counties has again ballooned from 77 to nearly twice as many:

  • 79 are majority Black
  • 19 more have at least a 40% Black population
  • 8 have a majority Native American population

The rest have a heavy White majority. While this isn't nearly as dramatic as at the < 40% range, it's still noteworthy that 73% of these counties are heavily BIPOC.

Needless to say, there's a serious problem here. On average, only 41% of the total populations of these counties have been vaccinated so far. Considering that only 15% of the Black population nationally say that they refuse to get vaccinated, this seems to be a situation where at least 30-40% or so of the rest of the population is willing to get vaccinated...IF issues of access, transportation, time off of work etc. are resolved.

It's also worth noting that these 146 counties combined have roughly 16 million unvaccinated (or partly-vaccinated) residents over 11 yrs. old combined.

If I was debating where to put my resources into local targeting to get more people vaccinated, this is where I'd expend most of it right now, since the polling indicates that most of these folks either want to or are at least willing to get vaccinated if it's made easy for them to do so.

The lower right quadrant (deep red / low-vaxx, or deep MAGA country if you will) has roughly 41 million unvaccinated residents over 11 years old who could get vaccinated, or 2.5x as many as the other two quadrants above combined. The question here is how many of these folks will continue to refuse to #GetVaxxed no matter how many resources are thrown at them. Some are gettable, of course...but far too many don't appear to be.