(WFSB) - With more than eighty percent of the eligible population vaccinated, Connecticut remains a leader in the COVID vaccine rollout, but there are those who have chosen not to get their shot.
The latest snapshot of the state shows the darker the blue, the more vaccinated the town is.
The eastern part of the state is lagging overall.
"We came up here, because it was quiet, farmland, to yourself," Christopher McManus tells us.
More than half of the population of 9,300 is unvaccinated.
"I don’t agree with the vaccine," noted one resident.
It’s been nearly a year since the first vaccines rolled out and at Mill Town Grille, the vaccine still dominates conversations among young adults.
"I believe this is tyranny," Ariel Santos says.
Ariel is not vaccinated and doesn’t plan to get it.
"I’ve already made that choice and I’ll have to quit my job and fend for myself. At the end of the day, spiritually, I don’t believe in the vaccine," continued Santos.
He cites religious reasons. State data shows young people, like Santos, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four are among the least vaccinated in our state.
Christopher is vaccinated, but has lingering concerns.
"I almost felt there was a hand behind me going, 'Take that'. If you don’t, you won’t be able to do what you want to do," stated McManus.
Eyewitness News asked where the hesitancy is coming from in this rural town and the answer we got was more about their way of living, not skepticism.
"In New York City, you should probably get the vaccine. You’re around a lot of people. For us, we’re in a bar right now. It’s you guys and me and him, and her," explained McManus.
Thompson, Sterling, and Plainfield are the least vaccinated in eastern Connecticut and Eyewitness News sat down with the state’s public health commissioner, Manisha Juthani.
She’s also interested in learning why and how to engage people in this part of the state.
"This is part of what we need to continue to investigate and find out what’s going to work best for all the communities in our state," Dr. Juthani stated.
The unvaccinated are not just in the rural areas. While there’s a lot of dark blue in the central part of Connecticut, Hartford sticks out.
Just fifty-four percent are vaccinated, way below the state average, but on par with other urban cities in our state, like New Britain and Waterbury, all have yet to reach the sixty percent mark.
Access may have been an issue at the start, but mobile vans and door-to-door outreach tried to solve that.
There are stats on the African American community, overall.
Statewide, forty-six percent of the black population is fully vaccinated.
We wanted to learn more about why the capital city still struggles and talked with two young adults who may never get the vaccine.
"I’m just not interested in it personally," Giovanna Sumlin of Hartford says.
"I’ve never been affected by corona," Anthony Miller of Hartford noted.
Giovanna and Anthony are in their early twenties and healthy. Because of that, this pair from Hartford says they don’t feel the need to get vaccinated.
In fact, as time has gone on, they have more questions.
"How much work is it actually doing to your body if you can still be infected by the virus?" asked Sumlin.
The urgency surrounding the rollout has turned them off.
"I feel like they rushed it too much and they’re trying to mandate it. That gives me red flags," explained Sumlin.
Dr. Juthani admits we don’t know everything there is to know about the vaccine, but that statement is also true for coronavirus and the long term effects it may carry.
"If I’m going to take my chances on a vaccine with proven history and decades of experience of vaccine technology versus taking my chance on a virus where I don’t have that experience. If you’re going to take your chance on vaccine or virus, I would take the vaccine any day," said Dr. Juthani.
It may seem as if we’re at a point where minds have been made up and our vaccination rate won’t budge.
That’s not the case. The mandates are working. Let’s use state employees as a microcosm.
Roughly seven thousand of the 30,000 are unvaccinated.
Since the mandate started, officials say 1,000 got vaccinated and officials believe more will follow.
We could see what’s happening at the state level translate to private companies with vaccine policies.
"For many people, livelihood and being able to put food on the table, what I’d like to tell them is you’re protecting yourself and your family," continued Dr. Juthani.
Dr. Juthani is also expecting that when children are eligible, they may take the lead and get their parents on board.
"They think in ways that we don’t as adults. They have persuasion in their own families in ways that as the commissioner of public health i’ll never have with their parents. I look forward to having kids bringing up this conversation at the dinner table," Dr. Juthani added.
Overall, officials say the outlook here in Connecticut is positive, but there will be pockets of the community who are staunchly against it.