A new tool created by the NC Department of Health and Human Services that maps social vulnerability and vaccination rates by census tract has helped North Carolina vaccine providers increase vaccinations by 50 percent in 89 underserved communities.
“This mapping tool is another great example of how we and our providers continue to rely on data to drive our work and help every North Carolinian have easy and convenient access to a COVID-19 vaccine,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “The vaccine is the best protection against COVID-19 and virus-related hospitalization and death. It protects you and your community.”
The department has focused on 90 census tracts identified as having high social vulnerability, low vaccination rates and no COVID-19 vaccine providers as of April 24. Of these 90 census tracts, 89 have achieved a 50% increase in vaccinations since April 24 with the state’s targeted outreach efforts.
The COVID-19 census tract mapping tool highlights areas of the state with the highest rates of social vulnerability and lowest rates of COVID-19 vaccination. Social vulnerability is measured by the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI), a database that helps public health officials identify communities at highest risk for disaster-related suffering and financial loss due to issues such as poverty, lack of access to transportation, crowded housing and other economic and social factors.
“We use the map to identify community partners in these areas, and our marketing department reaches out to these same areas with education,” said Vice President of Practice Quality and Innovation and UNC Health Alliance Amy Shaheen, M.D. “We also prioritize where to send our mobile vaccine unit based on the tract information.”
The map includes the locations of COVID-19 vaccine providers and community-based organizations that have offered to support vaccine events. In the 90 census tracts identified as high risk by NCDHHS, the department has enrolled new vaccine providers in 19 tracts that previously had none and deployed community health workers to 11 additional census tracts. These new providers, combined with expanded outreach efforts, have successfully increased equitable vaccine distribution among the targeted census tracts.
“This tool will guide the Healthier Together team and our community-based organization partners in targeted outreach for vaccine mobilization,” said Stacey Carless, Executive Director of NC Counts Coalition. “The Healthier Together team is using the SVI map to identify and prioritize census tracts for vaccine outreach and to distribute the vaccine to those most in need.”
To date, more than 52% of the population 18 years and older has been vaccinated with at least one dose in North Carolina, and the department will continue to use data on vaccination efforts and social vulnerability to inform planning and investment of resources.