CDC expands data tool PLACES to help with equity of COVID-19 vaccinations

Posted at 2:51 PM, Jan 29, 2021

Those in charge of deciding who should get COVID-19 vaccines next are trying to make sure it’s as equitable as possible.

Race and ethnicity have come up repeatedly because of systemic racism and the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has had on people of color. But several areas have run into issues trying to base shots solely on those parameters.

Oregon's vaccine advisory committee at first suggested race should be considered, then it learned the recommendations were too broad. But that doesn't mean these communities will be overlooked.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just expanded its data tool called PLACES, which takes a hyper local look at important health factors all across the country, including rural areas and smaller cities, down to the zip code.

“PLACES is a tool. It's an interactive tool that allows you to look at certain areas, particularly of chronic disease and other health behaviors at the very local level, literally the neighborhood level,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, CDC Chronic Disease Prevention Director.

PLACES has numbers on 27 different health measures like heart disease, diabetes, smoking and health insurance coverage, issues that tend to impact communities of color and make them more susceptible to severe or deadly COVID-19.

“And so we're hopeful that people will use this to also identify the hardest hit areas and where they would like to consider a vaccine distribution, for example, or potentially even think about mobile clinics. You know, things like that that would make a big difference for these four communities that bear a disproportionate burden of chronic disease,” said Hacker.

Right now, for vaccines, Oregon and many other states are considering similar data. They just didn't have as much of it before.

We're talking social vulnerability and disadvantage indexes that look at everything from education to health outcomes.

The hope is the PLACES tool will also be used to prioritize other health programs in areas with the largest inequities.