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Vaccinating Rural Communities
There are logistical differences between distributing vaccines to heavily populated urban centers and poorer outlying areas. These differences require attention to ensure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinating rural communities, which are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, requires special attention. 

The Geographic Information System (GIS) is a tool for vaccinating rural communities to ensure equitable distribution. This system of maps allows civic authorities to access a comprehensive source of data and translate it into actionable information on the optimal places for setting up relief operations of any kind.

Information on socioeconomic conditions combined with an overlay of physical terrain provides the tools for determining who is most in need of immunization. This ensures that vaccine site planners make the most of a decentralized distribution plan when deciding how to provide for rural areas efficiently.

What Is It?

It is best to view GIS as a method of overlapping different types of data on a given location so that an interested party can view it in light of whatever context they might need. GIS users can filter out whatever data they do not find relevant to their task.

National Geographic adds that the system operates through entering relevant information such as topography and housing distribution in a process called “data capture.” This stores information in snapshots that can inform viewers of how recent their data is and illustrate changes through certain date ranges.

These data stem from multiple sources, involving images from an aerial scan and/or records of human activity. So, the value of GIS in vaccinating rural communities stems from the clear picture it offers distributors on where they can have the most impact. Pandemic frontline workers can make informed decisions wherever they are by pulling up relevant data from their maps on areas of interest.

Who Does It Help?

GIS, with its ability to keep people up-to-date on the condition of areas in need, provides the means to supplement efforts with additional pre-planning. Aside from working around the capacity of available healthcare centers by choosing areas with sufficient personnel and space for vaccinating rural communities, there are more benefits of GIS. These include:

  1. Once GIS creates fairness in planning for nationwide immunity, its information on demographics helps at managing vaccine distribution by relative need based on their vulnerability to COVID-19. On a broad scale, this can mean selecting a cluster of people based on relatively low access to healthcare or a high concentration of infirmities. On a smaller scale, this might involve isolating demographic groups such as the homeless or discriminated minorities.
  2. Keeping track of vaccine stockpiles becomes more important when a larger distribution range requires storing vaccines closer to rural areas. In cases where a country is using vaccines that require two doses, timely delivery is crucial. By storing vaccines in the countryside, distributors find a median between shortening the logistical tail and allowing for the distance necessary for reaching impoverished areas without such hospitals.

Who Is Using GIS?

South Africa quickly adopted GIS as a means of vaccinating rural communities in situations where income gaps between different municipalities impacted travel times to the nearest hospital.

“Reaching South Africans in remote places has begun using mobile teams and mobile pharmacies to ensure that the vaccination program covers ‘the last mile,’” writes Luis Monzon on work the South African government did with volunteers from health NGO Right to Care. Right To Care’s mobile pharmacies regularly use their access to digital maps for tasks as routine as locating the optimal route to their destinations.

An earlier success story is that of Nigeria’s experience using GIS in its efforts to eradicate polio when it was discovered that hand-drawn maps did not accurately reflect resources on the ground. This realization and the use of geospatial data served as the basis for fine-tuning the Nigerian government’s strategy. In having the foundation for a distribution strategy before receiving 16 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine, government projections indicate a 40% immunization rate by the end of 2021.

Equal Opportunity Efficiency

Widespread adoption of GIS ensures that a country’s disaster response strategy can protect even the most remote areas from the destabilizing influence of a national crisis. Future applications of this technology likewise stand to benefit as its pool of experienced users broadens.

Whether the responsibility of vaccinating rural communities is in response to a national health crisis or other disruption to normalcy, GIS ensures the fastest possible response in mitigating the impact of a disaster. Expanding access to such comprehensive data serves as a further step in building a self-sufficient network for disaster-preparedness beyond the scope of a pandemic.

– Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in the U.K.The World Health Organization (WHO) officially labeled the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic in March 2020. This declaration pushed scientists and pharmaceutical companies around the world to develop vaccines. By December 2020, the United Kingdom, which includes Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, became the first country to approve COVID-19 vaccines for the public. To date, the U.K. is on track to achieve herd immunity, with close to 67% of its total population vaccinated with one dose and nearly 50% vaccinated with two doses. Although definitions of herd immunity vary, it generally involves vaccinating a majority of the population to reduce the spread of disease. Considering the success of COVID-19 vaccination in the United Kingdom, below are six facts about the current situation.

6 Facts About COVID-19 Vaccination in the United Kingdom

  1. The U.K. developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. University of Oxford scientists worked in collaboration with the English pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to develop this vaccine. In January 2021, an 82-year-old man named Brian Pincker was the first to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in England. The U.K. government currently has access to 100 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca and 50 million doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines.
  2. Vaccination programs vary across the U.K. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have their own healthcare systems and chief medical officers. As a result, vaccination programs and policies vary between nations. For example, Scotland first vaccinated residents in care home facilities, whereas England vaccinated community members above the age of 80. Despite these differences, all four nations generally agree on the priority list of people eligible to receive vaccines. They all follow the advice that the U.K.’s independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization gave them.
  3. The U.K. offers vaccines to certain age groups. The National Healthcare Services (NHS) in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland currently offer vaccines to people over the age of 18. However, NHS England currently offers vaccines to people over the age of 23. As the rollout of vaccines continues in the coming months, this age limit will lower. In all four nations, people under the required age limit can receive the vaccine if they have pre-existing medical conditions, including lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, etc., that make them clinically vulnerable to COVID-19.
  4. The U.K. offers vaccines to frontline workers. Across the U.K., frontline workers can receive COVID-19 vaccines regardless of whether they meet age requirements. Frontline workers include healthcare workers, social workers, hospital receptionists, mail carriers, funeral home directors and childcare providers.
  5. The U.K. will donate vaccines to other countries. In a recent G7 meeting in Cornwall, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged over 100 million vaccines to countries in need. As a group, leaders of the G7 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, committed to donating 1 billion vaccines to countries around the world.
  6. COVID-19 vaccination in the U.K. can reduce poverty. At the beginning of the pandemic, unemployment in the U.K. reached 5% for the first time since 2016. This is a direct result of in-person venues and institutions closing for public health concerns. COVID-19 vaccination efforts can help reopen in-person institutions, reinstate jobs and lift people out of poverty.

Looking Ahead

Overall, COVID-19 vaccination in the United Kingdom has been successful, as over 79.3 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine. People receive these vaccines in community pharmacies, hospitals, local general practices and other vaccination sites around the country. As a result, the U.K. government is currently on track to vaccinate all adults soon.

In the words of British Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi, this constitutes a “fantastic milestone and cause for celebration.” As more people get vaccinated, the U.K. government will be able to ease lockdown restrictions and reintroduce a sense of normalcy in society.

Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr