The University of Pittsburgh and West have developed a mapping method to assess which counties are most vulnerable to access to vaccination.
As the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history starts, some states do not have a sufficient number of facilities in certain places to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to all people who want it, according to a new report from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and the nonprofit West Health Policy Center.
In what is believed to be the first county-level study of possible COVID-19 vaccine sites, the research found that 35% of counties have two or less of these sites, and that almost one in ten counties have less than one site per ten thousand people.
The study included an interactive open access map, as well as a white paper.
“The U.S. has wide geographic variations in population access to potential COVID-19 vaccine delivery facilities, especially at the county level,” said Inmaculada Hernandez, Pharm.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at the Pitt School of Pharmacy and senior author of the report.
“This underscores the need for state and local health departments to tailor their vaccine distribution and administration plans to their specific populations and the current limitations of their state’s existing health infrastructure,” said Dr. Lucas Berenbrok, assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and the study’s lead author.
The researchers mapped more than 70,000 possible COVID-19 vaccination sites and estimated the average driving distance for normal people as well as for high-risk groups such as older citizens.
The fewest vaccination centers per capita occur in Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, and Virginia.
In terms of travel time, residents of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas share the longest commutes, with at least 10 percent of the population residing more than ten miles away from the closest facility.
For older adults, it’s far more difficult.
In 12 percent of counties, at least half of the older population drives more than 10 miles to work.
In North and South Dakota, over a fifth of the elderly population lives more than 10 miles from their nearest community center.
“We did the analysis to help states and counties across the U.S. identify potential problem areas for vaccine administration and take effective strategies and actions to overcome you,” “Clearly, there are certain agencies across the country that need more help and support than others.”.
They propose that state and local governments can consider adding centralized vaccination clinics to increase their capacity and shorten the time it takes to get vaccinated.
Areas with long travel distances could benefit from mobile vaccination clinics that eliminate travel-related barriers, and vaccinations that require a single rather than a pair of doses would help people taking them.
The metrics of facility density and distance will help state agencies not only determine the most suitable strategy to maximize capacity and convenience in each location, but also in the choice of vaccines. “When large populations are served by only a few vaccine delivery sites, additional support is needed for vaccine storage and delivery.”.