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Lab identifies vaccine deserts in Alabama

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 10:50 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A lab doing national research on vaccine equity has discovered a swatch of “vaccine deserts” in Alabama.

We spoke to one of the leading Harvard researchers on the project. They used public data to see where vaccine sites were available and where they weren’t. Researchers from Birmingham and Harvard began looking at the vaccine equity data early on, and have created an interactive visual map.

“Our hope was could we help these leaders, in a sense, provide some of the estimates of what they would need to plan for each phase of the vaccine rollout,” said Dr. Rebecca Weintraub, a professor at Harvard and researcher at Ariadne Labs.

While we now have an abundance of vaccines, there are places in Alabama where they are not available within a 15-minute drive, and more further than a 15-minute walk. Identifying those spots can help health officials see what areas are underserved.

“Number one, which sites should you consider opening so you can go right into the desert,” said Weintraub.

They’re also analyzing other factors; lack of broadband, access to healthy food, and correlating that data to learn more about underserved areas.

“We’ll be doing, over time, a series of analysis of why this desert persists,” she explained.

That way researchers can look at those open spaces on the map and better evaluate what changes to make.

Many states, including Mississippi, have been using this new tool to plan vaccine clinics but the lab has not worked with Alabama health officials yet.

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