'A stark partisan divide': Trump-supporting parishes lagging in vaccination rates

William Taylor Potter
Lafayette Daily Advertiser
Nurse Margaret Doucet assisting with Covid-19 Vaccinations. Louisiana's Department of Health held a free COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Broussard Saturday morning at the Wat Thammarattanaram Lao Buddhist Temple to help expand vaccine access and overcome hesitancy as the state looks to increase the share of residents who are vaccinated for COVID-19 after ranking among the lowest per capita in vaccination rates among states across the country. Saturday, April 10, 2021.

Louisiana's vaccination rates largely mirror 2020 voting patterns and education lines, with parishes that voted for President Donald Trump in 2020 and where residents have low rates of college degree attainment less likely to get vaccinated, data shows.

Around one-third of Louisiana residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19  vaccine, data from the Louisiana Department of Health shows. But in some parishes, less than a fifth of residents have received a COVID-19 dose.

COVID-19 vaccination has been politically polarized since the vaccines began rolling out. The 2020 Louisiana Survey found a significant difference in the number of people willing to get the vaccine along party lines.

"There is a stark partisan divide in thinking about vaccination against COVID-19," the survey said,

In early March, 17% of adults in Louisiana had received a COVID-19 vaccine, the survey found, with another 41% saying they would get the vaccine when it became available. 

More:Just 50% of Louisianans are willing to embrace COVID-19 vaccine, survey shows

But there was a wide gap between Republicans and Democrats, the survey found. About half of Republicans — 49% — said they had gotten the vaccine or intended to, but another 43% said they would not get the vaccine. Among Democrats, 78% said they had been or intended to be vaccinated and 13% said they would not get the vaccine.

In Louisiana, there appears to be a close connection between residents' voting habits in 2020 and their COVID-19 vaccination rates. On average, the percent of non-vaccinated residents in a parish and the percent of voters who voted for Trump in 2020 in that parish differ by about 11.5 percentage points.

The parish with the strongest connection is St. Charles Parish, where 64.6% of residents have not been vaccinated and 63.9% voted for Trump. The largest gap is in Orleans Parish, where 55% of residents are unvaccinated and only 15% voted for Trump in 2020.

It isn't unique to Louisiana. A USA TODAY Network analysis found that counties across Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama have seen vaccine hesitancy mirror support for Trump in the 2020 election.

However, it's clear that vaccine hesitancy isn't just a partisan problem in Louisiana. The percentage of non-vaccinated people is greater than the percent that voted for Trump in 48 of Louisiana's 64 parishes. 

More:Louisiana is ranked low in the nation in COVID-19 vaccinations. Here's why.

The maps compare how parishes voted in 2016, 2019 and 2020, as well as the percent of residents who have not gotten a COVID-19 vaccine.

Education attainment is another metric that closely correlates to non-vaccination rates. The percentage of residents in a parish that have not been vaccinated differs from the percent of residents aged 25 and older without a four-year college degree by 11 percentage points. 

Nationwide, there have been discussions of vaccine-hesitancy among Black Americans stemming from historic racism within the health care system.

COVID-19 had disproportionate impacts on Black people, who also are among the most vaccine-hesitant, a study by Cato Laurencin with the University of Connecticut Health Center found. 

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"Given that the virus has hit the Black community the hardest, I am concerned now that vaccine hesitancy may perpetuate the health disparities that we are currently seeing in the numbers of infections and deaths taking place," Laurencin wrote. "Most studies, for instance, at this point, have found that Blacks as a community have the highest levels of individuals who state they will never get the vaccine or are not sure if they will get the vaccine."