KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: Differences in Vaccine Attitudes Between Rural, Suburban, and Urban Areas

Throughout the past year, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor has provided a look into how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted people living in different areas of the U.S., including analyses of the vaccine intentions of rural residents. This latest report draws on two surveys conducted in November (before news of the omicron variant) – one of adults and one of parents – and shows that those living in different types of communities hold very different views of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly when it comes to children. In addition, parents living in different community types report getting different levels of information regarding COVID-19 vaccines from their children’s schools and pediatricians.

  • Rural and suburban adults continue to lag somewhat behind those living in urban areas in terms of vaccine uptake. As of November, eight in ten urban residents (79%) say they have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine compared to seven in ten suburban adults and 67% of rural adults. One in five (21%) of those living in rural areas and one in six (16%) of those living in suburban areas say they will “definitely not” get a COVID-19 vaccine, at least twice the share of urban residents who say the same (8%).
  • The rural-urban gap in vaccination intention is even larger when it comes to children. About half of rural parents say they will definitely not get their 12-17 year-old children or their 5-11 year-old children vaccinated for COVID-19. A quarter of rural parents (26%) say they have vaccinated their 12-17 year-old, compared to nearly two-thirds of parents in urban areas (64%) and about half of those living in suburban areas (47%) areas. One in ten rural parents and a similar share of suburban parents (14%) report that their 5-11 year-old child is vaccinated, compared to about a quarter (23%) of urban parents who say the same.
  • Four in ten parents overall say they have spoken to their child’s pediatrician about the COVID-19 vaccine. Yet, those living in rural areas are more likely than those living in suburban or urban areas to report their child’s pediatrician did not recommend the vaccine for their child. More than one-third of rural parents say they had a conversation with their child’s health care provider and the provider did not recommended they get their child vaccinated (compared to around one in ten urban and one in seven suburban parents).
  • Around half of all parents say their child’s school has provided them with information on how to get a COVID-19 vaccine for their child, but smaller shares of rural than urban parents say their child’s school has encouraged parents to get their child vaccinated (36%) compared to parents in suburban (44%) and urban (50%) areas.
  • Views on COVID-19 vaccine mandates also differ across communities. A majority of urban residents support the federal government requiring large employers to either have their employees be vaccinated or get tested weekly, while rural and suburban residents are more divided on this Biden administration guideline. In addition, most workers living in urban areas say their employer already requires employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or that they support such a requirement, while six in ten rural workers and half of suburban workers do not want their employer to issue a vaccine mandate. Opposition to schools requiring eligible students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 is also higher among rural and suburban parents compared to urban parents.
  • While differing partisanship and demographics may contribute to differences in vaccine attitudes between people living in urban, suburban, and rural communities, multivariate analysis suggests that there is a relationship between community type and COVID-19 vaccine uptake that exists even when controlling for party identification and demographics. Using a statistical technique called logistic regression, we find that rural and suburban adults are less likely than urban adults to report being vaccinated for COVID-19, even after controlling for age, race, ethnicity, education, income, party identification, and ideology.

To access the full set of findings and methodology, click here.