Only Arizona and Montana have given more vaccines to vulnerable communities


Vaccines are going to Americans who need them the least: Arizona and Montana are the only two states who have given more shots to the elderly, those in poverty and minority communities, CDC report finds

  • A new CDC report looked at vaccination rates in counties where residents were at high risk for COVID due to poverty, race, disability and crowded housing
  • Officials found there were COVID-19 vaccination disparities in about two-thirds of U.S. states 
  • Just two states – Arizona and Montana – had given more shots to more vulnerable Americans as of March 1
  • In 11 states, vaccination rates were lower in areas with all four factors that put them at risk for COVID-19 and higher among low risk people  

Coronavirus vaccines are going to Americans who are at the least risk of infection in a majority of U.S. states, a new report finds. 

At least 31 states are giving fewer doses to counties where high rates of poor, elderly and minority residents live, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed on Wednesday.

While the remaining 19 states distributed vaccine to areas with high vulnerability, only two states – Arizona and Montana – did so consistently.

The CDC says the findings provide evidence for why more tailored COVID-19 vaccine administration and outreach efforts are needed in local communities to reduce inequities. 

A new CDC report found there were COVID-19 vaccination disparities – due to poverty, race, disability and crowded housing – in about two-thirds of U.S. states

Just two states - Arizona and Montana - had given more shots to more vulnerable Americans as of March 1. Pictured: Nurse Mariam Skertich administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at the Park County Health Department clinic for seniors 80 years and oldee in Livingston, Montana, January 2021

Just two states – Arizona and Montana – had given more shots to more vulnerable Americans as of March 1. Pictured: Nurse Mariam Skertich administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at the Park County Health Department clinic for seniors 80 years and oldee in Livingston, Montana, January 2021

It’s well known that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected minorities and groups that are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

That’s why several public health leaders have not only called for vaccine equality, in which similar numbers of doses are allocated to counties, but also for vaccine equity, which occurs when more doses are given to areas at the highest risk.

For the report, the CDC ranked counties as highly vulnerability, moderate vulnerability or low vulnerability based on the agency’s Social Vulnerability Index from 2018.

The SVI uses 15 indicators grouped into four themes to come up with a measure.

These four themes are: 

  • Socioeconomic status: Living below the poverty level, low income, unemployed, no high school diploma 
  • Household composition & disability: Residents who are aged 65 and older or 17 and younger, anyone above age five with a disability, single parent-household 
  • Minority status & language: Falls into a racial or ethnic minority, speaks English ‘less than well’ 
  • Housing type & transportation: Living in multi-family home or mobile home, no car, several people living in the same room 

Researchers looked at immunizations that occurred during the first two-and-a-half months of the vaccine rollout, from December 14, 2020 to March 1, 2021. 

Across the nation, counties with low social vulnerability had greater vaccination rates than counties with high social vulnerability, 15.8 percent compared to 13.9 percent.

When it came to overall SVI and across all four themes, only two states had better vaccination rates in high vulnerability counties compared with low vulnerability counties: Arizona and Montana.

About 40 percent of each states’s shots went to disadvantaged areas compared to 20 percent going to well-off counties. 

Three states had higher immunization rates in high vulnerability counties than in low vulnerability counties for three of the four themes.

In Alaska, the only exception the socioeconomic status theme, while the only exception in Minnesota and West Virginia was the minority status & language theme.  

Vaccination disparities were observed in 31 states and in 11 of these states, the disparity was found in all four themes. 

The worst state, New Hampshire, had less than 30 percent of its vaccines going to high vulnerability areas. 

‘Improving COVID-19 vaccination coverage in communities with high proportions of racial/ethnic minority groups and persons who are economically and socially marginalized is critical because these populations have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19–related morbidity and mortality,’ the CDC authors wrote.

‘Monitoring community-level metrics is essential to informing tailored, local vaccine delivery efforts, which might reduce inequities.’

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