(TARKIO, Mo.) One of Missouri’s smallest counties has the best vaccination rate in the state.
More than 22 percent of Atchison County’s 5,143 residents have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, according to state data Thursday. Compared to the state average of 15 percent of the population.
Julie Livengood, the Atchison County health department administrator, believes the statistic reflects the teamwork of area agencies, proactive steps taken early on, and a little bit of luck.
“As soon as we could sign up to become a COVID vaccinator, we did so. There were a few hiccups but we were approved during the first part of November. As soon as we could order the vaccine, we did so. Early on, we got vaccines before many others due to our approved vaccinator status. There were many health depts and hospitals that were still waiting for vaccinator approval in January and by then we had first and second doses given out,” Livengood said.
While smaller counties have some advantages in the race to get communities vaccinated, Atchison County has done better than its county peers. With the exception of Shelby County, the eight counties closest to Atchison County’s population size trail in vaccination rates by 6-13 percent.
Livengood said the entire county has been working together to share vaccine supplies and assist vaccine providers.
“The vaccine rate is due to vaccines given by not only the health department, but also our local nursing homes, local hospital, local pharmacies, and nearby mass vaccination clinics,” she said. “The whole county has been working together to fight COVID for a year now and we haven't stopped. We may be a small county, but that's what we do here. We work together to get things done.”
Livengood said she expects the county vaccination rate to keep climbing in the coming weeks. Atchison County is still working through its Phase 1A and Phase 1B tier 1-2 groups and the county health department has not seen the vaccine demand fizzle out.
“If we had the vaccine in our hands all the time, and there were no restrictions. I feel like we could get our county vaccinated by May, you know? And be done but that’s just not possible right now,” she said.