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Nobody has time for bronchitis

The South lags behind the rest of the country when it comes to vaccination.

John McCurry

January 30, 2024

2 Min Read
Southern states have low vaccination rates.
The vaccination rate for COVID continues to be relatively low in the South.Getty Images

About a dozen years ago, a young woman in Oklahoma, being interviewed following an apartment fire, claimed smoke from the fire gave her bronchitis. Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins gained overnight fame with her assessment of bronchitis, saying “ain’t nobody got time for that.”  

I was recently reminded of Sweet Brown’s famous phrase and subsequent mix tape, still available on YouTube, when I was diagnosed with bronchitis in early January.  The diagnosis made me wish there was a vaccine for the common chest cold. I would certainly get vaxxed if there was one, as I do annually for COVID and the flu. I am hardly ever sick, but this bout of bronchitis stuck with me for better than two weeks. No time for that! 

There is a lot of truth in Sweet Brown’s words. Taking it a step further, I say nobody has time for COVID or the flu, either, but the public is falling way short of taking the necessary steps for prevention. Flu vaccinations have been an annual rite of fall for me for nearly 30 years. They’ve worked, too, since I don’t recall having the flu since way back in the 20th Century. COVID shots are now an annual thing for me, too. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic may officially be over, COVID is here to stay with us, continuing to put people in hospitals and worse. The number of COVID deaths remains significant, although far below pandemic levels. The CDC reports deaths averaged nearly 1,500 per week during December.  

Nationally, just 17% of the population, or 56.4 million people, have received the updates (bivalent) booster dose according to Centers for Disease Control dates. 

Delta states and other southern states lag behind much of the country in terms of the percentage of population receiving the updated COVID booster shot. CDC data shows Mississippi has the lowest percentage of people with the updated COVID booster with just 6.8%. Louisiana and Alabama have the next lowest with 7.7% each. Tennessee, with 10.8%, and Arkansas, with 11% are just slightly better. 

On the other end of the shot spectrum, Vermont has the highest percentage of vaccinations with 34.3%, followed by Maine with 31.2%, Massachusetts with 31% and Minnesota with 26.8%. 

Flu deaths between Oct. 1, 2023, and Jan. 6, 2024, were estimated to be between 9,400 and 28,000, according to the CDC, with hospitalizations during that time period ranging from 150,000 to 320,000. The public is more receptive to flu shots. The CDC estimates 44.9% of U.S. adults were vaccinated this fall.  

As the World Health Organization states in its vaccine promotional material, billions of people around the world have safely received COVID vaccinations, saving millions of lives. It’s mind-boggling that there isn’t more participation in the South.

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