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COVID-19

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

Justin Ho Dec 15, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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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
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

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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