HARDEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hardee County is home to 27,000 people, three towns and Tampa Bay’s lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate.

Thirty eight percent of people over the age of 12 are vaccinated in Hardee County, according to the latest state data.

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s sad,” said Amalia Arista, Hardee County’s emergency management director.

Arista brought her teenage daughters to get vaccinated at the Department of Health office in Wauchula on Thursday.

“It was a heavy decision for me as a mom. We don’t know the long-term ramifications of the vaccine but at the end of the day, the statistics with the vaccine and the recovery rates and the less symptoms that people experience, that’s why I did it,” she said.

She wanted to make sure her daughters were protected, as well as their family members.

Her office posted information on social media to spread the word about Hardee County’s low vaccination rate, its rising cases and its 24% positivity rate.

“That’s what my goal is – is to help get out education so that people become more knowledgeable about it. What you’re afraid of, you tend to shy away from,” she said.

The county’s Human Resources director, Alicia Woodard, said she believes people are not getting vaccinated due to a lack of accurate information.

“Word of mouth, that’s a huge part, so we’re trying to redirect that and show that vaccines are important and show that COVID cases are real and it’s serious,” said Woodard.

Dr. Joy Jackson is the director of the Florida Department of Health in Hardee and Polk counties.

“Unfortunately, we are in a new COVID-19 surge. But this time we have vaccines. I want you to know vaccines are safe and effective and they are our best defense against COVID-19. My thanks to those who have already been vaccinated. For those on the fence, now is the time to act,” she wrote in a statement released Thursday.

Vaccinations are available at pharmacies in Hardee County as well as the Department of Health office in Wauchula on Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

For more locations, visit https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/vaccines/vaccine-locator/.