Prisons skewing vaccination rates in southern Middle Georgia
Some rural counties in Middle Georgia have lower vaccination rates, but not because of vaccine hesitation.
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT)– As Georgia works to meet President Biden’s vaccine goals, most health experts in Georgia do not believe the state will make the July 4 deadline.
Although most Middle Georgia counties are on track to reach herd immunity in the coming months, nine counties that seem to be lagging behind.
However, Melissa Brantley with the South Central Health District, explained these counties have large prison facilities, which tends to lower vaccination rates in those areas.
When the Georgia Department of Public Health calculates the vaccination rate in a county, they use the total population reported by the U.S. Census. The Census counts residents, but also includes inmates too. The Department of Public Health is not vaccinating inmates, because the state left that up to the Department of Corrections.
“They count in the number of people, and those who are in prison in that county,” Brantley said. “For example, Wheeler County appears to not be very well vaccinated but about a third of the population is in prison there.”
In Georgia, Wheeler County has the lowest vaccination rate in the state at 17%. The county holds approximately 2,695 inmates in Wheeler County Private Prison, and has 7,855 people in the total population according to the U.S. Census.
The South Central Health District fully vaccinated 1,339 people in Wheeler County. Whenever the number of inmates is subtracted from the Census’s total population, that brings Wheeler to 5,160 people. With that recalculation, it shows that the true number of vaccinated residents is at 26%, rather than 17%.
These skewed numbers also occurred in Dodge, Dooly, Pulaski, Telfair, Treutlen, Wilcox, and Johnson County.