‘It’s been a hard sell’: Officials struggle with vaccinations in Richmond County

RICHMOND COUNTY, N.C. — Richmond County has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in North Carolina, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccine hesitancy has been a big problem in the county and experts said it may be showing where the rest of the state is headed.

“Right now, at this moment, I’m not comfortable with getting it,” resident Karen Haith said abut the vaccine.

It is believed that those who are unvaccinated are at an extremely high risk of getting COVID-19.

“I think COVID is the worst thing I’ve seen,” said Antonio Blue, mayor of Dobbins Heights.

Blue, who is vaccinated, is also trying to get the community -- which is 90% Black -- the shot.

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“It’s been hard,” Blue said. “It’s been a hard sell trying to get people to understand how important it is.”

Blue works in the funeral business and told Channel that what he’s seen should be enough to make people who are in doubt realize the importance of the vaccine.

“We typically do 120 funerals a year,” he said. “Last year, we did 187.”

He said most of the deaths were due to COVID-19.

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“We’re now averaging around a 30-per-day walk-in clinic,” said Cheryl Speight, health department director for Richmond County.

Speight said that despite having vaccine clinics daily and other outreach efforts, they are not vaccinating enough people.

“That is what we’re seeing -- our hospitalized people now are basically unvaccinated,” Speight said. “Most of our cases are unvaccinated.”

Linda Hough is one of many who are growing frustrated with the situation. She’s a restaurant owner and is thinking about going back to just take-out.

“I want to close down again and just do take-out orders instead of sitting down,” Hough said. “So, it’s scary because a lot of the young people don’t want to take the vaccination.”

The delta variant has motivated more residents who have been on the fence to take the shot, but with the health department saying only 36% have been fully vaccinated, officials have no illusions about the challenge ahead.

(WATCH BELOW: Davidson College requiring some students, staff to get fully vaccinated)