The White House has released an online toolkit to help organizations in rural areas mitigate COVID-19 in their communities, where vaccine rates lag behind urban areas.

The User Guide for the Rural Communities Toolkit contains materials to boost confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines and reinforces basic prevention messages.

The toolkit is part of a larger initiative, the COVID-19 Public Education Campaign, within the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Biden administration is increasing resources allocated to rural communities to meet its goal of 70% of American adults getting at least one COVID-19 shot by July 4.

The pandemic has hit rural communities especially hard. The vaccination rate among adults in urban counties is 45.7%, compared to 38.9% in rural counties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rural communities face distinctive challenges, including limited access to health care and vaccines, according to the toolkit.

“Many people in rural communities are at increased risk for COVID-related severe illness, hospitalization, and death because of chronic health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.”

The toolkit contains fact sheets and other customizable materials for organizations that communicate directly with rural audiences. Of particular note is information on bridging the COVID-19 vaccine gap in rural communities and supporting rural residents’ mental health, housing and financial needs during the pandemic.

HHS plans to review and update the toolkit materials periodically.