A new tool to reduce COVID-19 vaccine 'deserts'

Research released Feb. 2 and led by experts from Boston Children's Hospital examined the widespread barrier of vaccine deserts, defined as geographic areas that are "more than a 15-minute drive to the closest active COVID-19 vaccination site."

From that research, Boston Children's Hospital, in partnership with Ariadne Labs, developed an open-source tool that maps these areas across the country in an effort to better inform how vaccines can be distributed and accessible for populations residing within a desert. 

In addition to identifying desert areas, the Vaccine Equity Planner also looks at any facilities within the vaccine deserts that could be utilized to improve upon access to vaccines. 

"The persistence of vaccine deserts in every state as COVID-19 booster recommendations develop suggests that vaccine delivery can be improved," the researchers wrote. "Under resourced public health systems benefit from tools providing real-time, accurate, actionable data."

Traveling long distances or needing to take time off work to travel to a vaccination site are two areas that have been cited by the unvaccinated as barriers to updating their vaccines, researchers also found.

Researchers hope that the data from the tool will be a resource for communities and further "support data-driven public health decision-making." 

Further research also supports the findings that making COVID-19 vaccinations more available and convenient can boost vaccination rates.


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