COVID-19

CDC “vulnerability index” can help states determine distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

Justin Ho Dec 15, 2020
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Vials in boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Dec. 13, 2020. Morry Gash/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

CDC “vulnerability index” can help states determine distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

Justin Ho Dec 15, 2020
Heard on:
Vials in boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Dec. 13, 2020. Morry Gash/AFP via Getty Images
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After COVID-19 vaccines are distributed to health care workers, state and local governments will have to figure out who’s next in line. One tool that governments will have at their disposal is the Social Vulnerability Index

That’s a dataset, developed by the Centers for Disease Control, that tracks how disasters affect disadvantaged communities. States can also use the index to decide how vaccines should be allocated.

The Social Vulnerability Index uses Census data to weigh factors like a community’s poverty level, its racial breakdown or whether people live in crowded housing.

“These factors are increasingly important in our understanding of who gets harmed by disasters, who doesn’t,” said Jeff Schlegelmilch, who runs the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.

In the past, the index has been used after wildfires and hurricanes. Now it can help states identify communities that have been disproportionately hit by COVID-19.

“And so those are the populations that we have to make sure get the vaccine before other people, for whom COVID is an inconvenience but not an existential threat,” said Harald Schmidt, medical ethics professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Schmidt said the Social Vulnerability Index can also help states target their communication and outreach strategies to let people know the vaccines are available.

“Because it’s no good to prioritize worse-off populations if they won’t use them,” said Schmidt, adding that a number of states have already published plans to use the CDC’s index.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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