A little-known metric may help guide state officials with COVID-19 vaccine outreach

The Social Vulnerability Index is compiled by looking at fifteen variables in U.S. Census data
Social vulnerability map
Social vulnerability map(WVUE)
Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 2:15 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Health officials in Louisiana are encouraged by the more than ten percent of the state that has been fully vaccinated, but they know there is more work to be done to vaccinate most of the state.

In a press conference on Thursday, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced the launch of an outreach effort known as Bring Back Louisiana to bring COVID-19 vaccines to communities of concern through events and outreach. The campaign is starting with nine pilots according to the governor’s office, one in each of the state’s nine health regions.

State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said the effort is going to be largely data-driven focusing on areas that are not receiving vaccinations and comparing it with a metric known as the Social Vulnerability Index to focus on outreach in certain areas. The Social Vulnerability Index is compiled by looking at variables in U.S. Census data and is typically used by emergency management officials to identify communities that may need support before, during, or after disasters. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that areas with a higher social vulnerability index are least likely to have been vaccinated in the first few months of the nationwide vaccination effort.

The metrics used in the SVI are figures from the census divided into four categories:

  • Socioeconomic Status (below poverty, unemployed, income, no high school diploma)
  • Household Composition & Disability (Age 65+, Age <17, Older than 5 with a disability, single-parent households)
  • Minority Status and Language (Minority population, Speaking language other than English)
  • Housing Type & Transportation (Multi-unit structures, mobile homes, crowding, no vehicles, group quarters)

“We’re going to be marrying that [the Social Vulnerability Index] to where vaccinations have already occurred and using that in an evidence-based, data-driven fashion to drive this type of outreach,” Kanter said Thursday.

Kanter said the outreach is necessary to bring all regions of the state back to normal.

“With the transmission of this virus and in particular what we know about asymptomatic transmission, it is clear now that when one community is left behind we all fall behind. and this campaign is going to be about bringing all of Louisiana on board with vaccinations,” Dr. Kanter said.

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