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County-Level Dashboard Could Help Improve NC Vaccine Distribution

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In North Carolina, vast inequities in distribution have left many Black and Brown communities without the option to be vaccinated for COVID-19. (Adobe Stock)
In North Carolina, vast inequities in distribution have left many Black and Brown communities without the option to be vaccinated for COVID-19. (Adobe Stock)

 By Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC - Producer, Contact
March 3, 2021

RALEIGH, N.C. - A new data dashboard estimates the number of North Carolina residents eligible for each COVID vaccine phase, and could help local county officials better allocate them where they're needed most.

Data analyst Matthew Simon of the North Carolina Institute for Public Health, who created the dashboard, said the tool uses census data to break down the number of residents in a county by race, gender, occupation and other factors. He said it allows local public-health officials to paint a better picture of vaccine supply and demand in their region, and make access more fair and equitable.

"Unfortunately, what we're seeing a lot of is people who are getting vaccinated are the people often that are connected," he said, "or they are the populations that aren't marginalized."

These inequities persist statewide. One report by the Health Advocacy Project and the North Carolina Justice Center found that while Black residents make up 22% of the state's population, they received 15% of the first phase of vaccine doses and just 11% of the second phase, compared with 82% of Caucasian North Carolinians receiving their follow-up shots.

According to Simon, the population estimates by occupation are especially critical as North Carolina begins the vaccine rollout for Group Three, which includes teachers, child-care workers and other essential workers with high risk of exposure. The dashboard, for instance, might show a health official in Avery County that there are 500 educators and 200 personal-care workers living in the area.

"So, we might be able to anticipate that we'll get somewhere between 500 and 700 calls for vaccine appointments," he said.

As of late February, around 1.2 million first doses of the coronavirus vaccine had been given to people in Groups One and Two, including health-care workers, long-term-care facility staff and residents, and adults 65 and older.

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