Evaluating spatial accessibility to COVID-19 vaccine resources in diversely populated counties in the United States

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This study examines the accessibility to COVID-19 vaccination resources in two counties surrounding Newark, NJ in the New York Metropolitan Area, United States. The study area represents diverse population makeups. COVID-19 vaccines were made available by different types of vaccination sites including county mass vaccination sites, medical facilities and pharmacies, and a FEMA community vaccination center in spring 2021. We used the two-step floating catchment area method to measure accessibility and calculated the average accessibility scores of different population groups. We examined the patterns and tested the significance of the differences in accessibility across population groups. The results showed clear spatial heterogeneity in the accessibility to vaccine resources with the existing infrastructure (medical/pharmacy vaccine sites). Accessibility patterns changed with the introduction of county mass sites and the FEMA community site. The county mass vaccination sites in one county greatly increased accessibilities for populations of minority and poverty. The FEMA community site in the other county accomplished the same. Both the local health department and the federal government played an important role in mitigating pre-existing inequalities during the vaccination campaign. Our study shows that social determinants of health need to be addressed and taken into explicit consideration when planning resource distribution during the pandemic.

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Frontiers in Public Health



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