Tracking the Latest Vaccine Trends
By Kenna Camper
While COVID continues to spread throughout the United States, the recent increase in vaccine distribution and administration brings hope, as these vaccinations are an important tool in combating the spread of the virus. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for use in the U.S., and both vaccines require two separate doses. You can now view state-level data for the first and second doses on the US Covid Atlas, and we anticipate making county-level data available as vaccinations become more widely distributed.
Visualizing Vaccine Data
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), since the vaccine rollout began in December, about 12% of Americans have received the first vaccine dose. As of February 19th, over 61 million doses have been administered and 74 million doses have been distributed. Using the Atlas, you can explore data for the percent of people who have received the first dose or the second dose, and the doses to be administered per 100K population. The data for vaccinations administered per 100K population describes the number of vaccines that have been administered in the state, normalized to the number of doses administered per 100K population.
Like all other variables available on the Atlas, you can visualize vaccination data and trends over time, starting from January 2021. Particularly in the coming months, further into the recovery, this time series view is helpful in showing how trends fluctuate day-by-day, week-by-week, and so on. Today, about a month into wide-spread vaccine data availability, we recommend normalizing for spikes in the daily variation of vaccinations due to winter weather events and holidays and selecting to view the data as a 7-day average.
Early Trends Show Rural State Successes
The vaccination roll-out campaign started slowly across almost all states, but is picking up in terms of daily new confirmed first doses as well as fully-vaccinated populations. The range of first dose received is between 11–18% of state-wide populations and full vaccination is between 5–9%, with Alaska leading at over 11%, as of February 23.
Generally, we’re seeing an inverse relationship between percent vaccinated and vaccines on hand to be distributed. More rural states are lagging behind in terms of percentage of their total populations that have been fully vaccinated, with a few exceptions. West Virginia and Alaska have consistently seen some of the highest vaccination rates in the country. Montana and North Dakota have seen significant increases in the percentage of their populations receiving the second dose in recent weeks. Alabama, Illinois, and Idaho have some of the lowest rates.
We’ve also seen a decline in the number of first and second doses in Texas in the last week, likely due to the major storms that have caused major damage to homes and infrastructure and significantly disrupted daily life across the states.
How COVID-19 Vaccines Work
As the vaccines become more widely administered, more people will be able to develop immunity — which is essential to building protection against the virus. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines that carry information that tells our cells how to make a harmless protein fragment of COVID-19. Once our bodies make the protein, our immune system recognizes that the protein should not be there and develops antibodies against it. After this, the antibodies will remember this and be able to fight the virus if infected with COVID in the future. The Pfzier and Moderna vaccines require two shots in order to be the most effective, so it is important that people follow the guidelines for receiving the second dose at the appropriate time. In trials for the vaccine, the first dose caused a relatively weak immune system response, so a second dose is necessary to strengthen the response and increase effectiveness to about 95%.
Distribution is Expanding
Although vaccine supply has been limited, with the goal of 100 million vaccination doses in 100 days, President Biden is working to increase the amount of doses shipped to states. Due to current supply limitations, only individuals in prioritized groups are eligible to receive the vaccine, which has caused some confusion as well as disparities in who is getting access to the vaccine. Communities of color have continued to lag behind white communities in receiving first and second doses at the national level as well as across regions and cities with high levels of segregation. However, as vaccine supplies increase over the coming months, officials are planning for most adults to have access to the vaccine by early summer.
In addition to getting vaccinated, it is essential that we continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask (better yet, double up!), wash your hands, and stay home as much as possible in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Kenna Camper is a Research Assistant with the Center for Spatial Data Science.
Edits by Susan Paykin.