Inside Georgia’s data-driven push for equitable vaccine access

According to CDC data, during the initial phase of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, Georgia ranked last in the US in administering the vaccine to eligible citizens in early March. Those figures illustrated that slightly less than 30,000 of every 100,000 Georgia adults had received a vaccine.

Although Georgia has now administered more than 5 million vaccines, many communities continue to face constraints. Even with a vaccine currently available to everyone over the age of 16 in Georgia, many individuals find that accessing vaccines is still complex, and the system poses barriers to them receiving it. 

However, two organizations—both of which are Tableau Foundation partners—have come together, backed by data, to bring a dedicated focus to ensuring that Georgians furthest from easy access to vaccines are able to be protected from the virus. One is the Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP), a regional cohort of organizations working to build economic vitality across the region; the other is Fair Count, which was founded to drive toward accurate and equitable census representation. In mid-March, SEAP and Fair Count launched the #CountMeIn Georgia initiative to tackle barriers to vaccination in that region, specifically in Black, LatinX Native American communities. This initiative includes a dashboard, developed to support volunteers in their outreach and canvassing strategies that increase vaccination rates throughout Southwestern Georgia—one of the poorest and most rural parts of the state.

Ensuring equitable vaccine access

From the beginning of the vaccine rollout, SEAP knew that ensuring equitable access would be critical—but also a massive challenge. “Our impetus for this work is helping the people,” says Genny Castillo, SEAP’s regional engagement director. “We wanted to create opportunities for all people to be able to get vaccinated.” Castillo witnessed firsthand the difficulty her parents had in scheduling a vaccine appointment, even with her help looking up sites and going through the booking process. The appointments were limited, released at confusing times, and the system crashed frequently. “I’m someone who knows technology, knows English, has good eyesight and knows how to navigate difficult online systems,” Castillo says. “And I had difficulty. So for older adults with barriers—from language to technology access—it’s nearly impossible.” 

SEAP and Fair Count began discussing how to operationalize the kind of support Castillo was able to extend to her parents—providing up-to-date information on where to go, assisting with online booking, and answering any questions people might have about the process. 

“The goal of our #CountMeIn campaign is to get everyone in our focus communities vaccinated, and as long as folks there aren't vaccinated then our work isn't done,” says Fair Count’s Communications Director Jason Ludwig. “It's a lofty goal, of course, and one toward which we aren't the only ones working, so a big component of that larger goal is fortifying ongoing vaccination efforts with campaign-style resources, efforts, and tactics.” 

Photo: Fair Count

A data-driven outreach campaign

To ensure they were targeting support where it was needed most, data proved critical. At the center of the #CountMeIn Georgia initiative is the Georgia Vaccination Site Dashboard, built in Tableau. This interactive tracker displays more than 1,000 COVID-19 vaccination sites throughout the state of Georgia and features, in real-time, vaccine locations and contact information, along with zip-code level community indicators.

Community indicators reflect the prevalence of potential constraints to vaccine access, such as the lack of computing devices, phones, smartphones, or vehicles available in the household and gaps in health insurance coverage. Additionally, community characteristics are shown via indicators of underlying health conditions, population size, demographic and economic characteristics—all indicators that assist the organizations with understanding where to target their vaccine distribution efforts.

Fair Count’s deep connections in communities, established through its previous outreach for census representation, have equipped it to conduct outreach around vaccine access—which, as Ludwig says, is an ever-shifting issue as eligibility and access points continue to change. “The foundation of our work as an organization is building and maintaining relationships in communities,” Ludwig says. “It’s been extremely helpful when it comes to working with folks who have questions about vaccines, or don’t know where to go to get a vaccine or get accurate information. We’ve already laid the groundwork and are able to reach out to people with information as trusted sources.”

Fair Count has been leading an extensive outreach campaign—initially focused on Southwest Georgia—to contact residents and ensure they have the information they need to get a vaccine. They’re able to use the dashboard to look up vaccination site addresses and contact information by ZIP code. Because the dashboard is updated as locations and details change, Fair Count’s volunteers can be sure they’re always working with up-to-date information.

Additionally, the nonprofit CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) has begun deploying mobile vaccination units in communities where access has been limited. As their efforts ramp up, they’ll be able to use the dashboard to determine where to prioritize resources. 

Tackling interrelated equity issues

While equitable vaccine access is just one component of creating regional economic equity and prosperity—the overarching goal of both SEAP and Fair Count—it’s essential to making progress. “It’s all connected—the work for an accurate census count, voting rights, vaccine access,” Ludwig says. “One of the reasons the communities we’re focusing on are underserved is because they were undercounted in the census, which means they may not have accurate political representation and power to demand things like more health funding and more resources. The difficulty of vaccine access in some of these communities is very much an expression of the need for equitable representation.” 

Learn more about SEAP, Fair Count, and the #CountMeIn Georgia initiative. To find out more about the role of data in driving for equitable outcomes, visit the Tableau Foundation’s Racial Equity Data Hub

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