In a new story for The Daily Yonder, writer Caroline Tremblay investigates Vermont and Maine, who are ranked third and sixth in rural COVID-19 vaccination rates. Why are they ranked so close to the top, when the two states have the 1st and 2nd largest rural population in America? The answer may surprise you.

From the story: “Vermont has used a variety of strategies to promote and deliver vaccines, according to the deputy commissioner of the Vermont Health Department, Kelly Dougherty, MSW, MPH. First and foremost has been consistency.

Vermont has no local or county health departments. Instead, it has a statewide network of local health offices that are part of the state health department. “That allowed us to have a consistent statewide approach with staff in our local offices doing outreach and conducting vaccination clinics,” Dougherty said.

Vermont also closely monitored each of its regions and “targeted areas with lower levels of uptake … essentially making it difficult to not run into a vaccination clinic in one’s community,” Dougherty said.”

“Like Vermont, Maine does not have a network of county health departments. Instead the state relied heavily on collaboration between its two primary health systems, Northeast Light Health and MaineHealth. Combined, these systems operate nearly 20 community hospitals, many of which are in rural areas. They’re also responsible for a network of primary care practices and home health agencies. Since vaccinations began, the two organizations have administered a significant percentage of the total doses statewide.”

To read the rest of the story and see the rural vaccination data on the Yonder, click here.