To improve the equitable distribution of vaccines, the city of Seattle will use a new mapping tool to locate future mobile and pop-up clinics, and eventually mass vaccination sites.
The map developed by the University of Washington will allow the city to compare communities’ COVID-19 positivity rates and other potential vulnerability factors based on their zip code and census tract.
It uses the Social Vulnerability Index – a federal measure that combines 15 factors such as poverty levels, household size, and vehicle access – to try to measure the impact of a disease or disaster on a community.
“This tool is vital to ensure that our limited supply goes to communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” said Jenny Durkan, Seattle Mayor, in a prepared statement. “Those hardest hit by the pandemic should be vaccinated first, and the City of Seattle can and should work with our partners to provide a path to equitable access.”
Esther Min, a research advisor with the UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine who worked on the mapping tool, said it should also be used to lead community outreach and awareness campaigns.
The different measures paint similar pictures. The highest Seattle communities on the Social Vulnerability Index – those in south Seattle along the Rainier Valley and, to a lesser extent, north Seattle along Highway 99 – also have the highest rates of COVID positivity.
“If you look at the city of Seattle or King County, the residents of South Seattle and South King Counties are hit hardest, whether you look at the positive rates, whether you look at the social vulnerability,” said Min. “They really wear a lot of load. “
The mapping tool was developed from previous UW work to map health differences across the state. A 2019 mapping project by the same team revealed which Washington communities are most exposed to lead, diesel fumes, and toxic waste.
The city has used its meager amount of vaccines to go door-to-door in adult family homes and run several pop-up clinics.
The city has plans to run more such clinics and open mass vaccination sites, but all of these rely on increased supplies of vaccines. The vast majority of vaccines are not distributed by the city itself, but by health care providers and government and regional agencies.
Nationwide, fewer black and Spanish residents have received vaccines than their share of the population, although these differences decrease with age. In Washington, most of the time, the vaccine is only available to people over the age of 65 and people over the age of 50 who live in a multi-generational household.