Case Studies - Addressing Lower Vaccination Rates

Michigan, Washington, D.C, and Pennsylvania are leveraging data from state health departments to measure the success or failure of COVID-19 vaccination strategies. They depend on various state department data to monitor population sets being vaccinated at lower rates to analyze disparities among different races, age groups, or communities.

Washington, D.C

  • Washington, D.C has collected COVID-19 vaccination data that reveals “stark racial disparities” relative to vaccination rates among various population-sets. COVid-19 vaccination in Washington is also fraught with bias (based on income disparity). Rich people are vaccinated at higher rates when compared to the poor.
  • Washington, DC, is one of the places most notorious for a gap in COVID-19 vaccination rates between the rich and the poor.
Income Based Vaccination Disparities - Washington, DC vs. Other States
  • Washington, D.C.’s worst-hit and mainly Black neighborhoods are lagging behind wealthier wards in terms of vaccination rates. Vaccination rates among older age groups in some communities also lag when compared to other communities in Washington. The vaccination rate falls between 7 to 9% among residents aged 65 and above in Black neighborhoods but is as high as 25% for other population sets in Washington’s northwestern parts.
  • The perceived lower vaccination rate among various Black American communities (including Washington) in comparison to other groups has stayed persistent despite various equity efforts.
  • On Monday, February 15, 2021, state and local leaders announced the “All in WA Vaccine Equity Initiative.” The initiative aims to raise $30 million (half from public funds and half private funds) to vaccinate underserved communities and eliminate the current disparity in vaccination rates for various population sets.
  • This strategy to utilize the “Vaccine Equity Initiative” seems to be the most effective option because most federal funds budgeted for vaccination will not be accessible until June. However, philanthropic funds get distributed quickly. Premera Blue Cross and Starbucks’ foundation have decided to support the effort.
  • Gov. Jay Inslee recently revealed that the new effort (through the “Vaccine Equity Initiative“) is handy because it ensures that the “hardest-hit communities have the information and resources they need to get vaccinated.”


  • Michigan is committed to redistributing resources to reach every under-vaccinated community. Available data indicates that Detroit is lagging behind rural counties within Michigan’s Upper Peninsula regardless of policymakers’ efforts to prioritize vaccine delivery among Detroit’s residents.
  • Before the “next phase” data is released, Michigan intends to leverage the CDC’s social vulnerability index to determine where to allocate more vaccines. The state also plans to focus more on “elderly residents and essential workers.” Joneigh Khaldun (Michigans medical executive) recently stated that initial disparities in vaccination rates for various demographics occurred due to the states’ prioritization of health workers and vaccine hesitancy among residents.
  • Michigan now deploys a strategy it defines as an “equity lens” to allocate COVID-19 vaccine doses. Michigan’s state health department is partnering with the city of Detroit to administer extra doses of vaccine in addition to its formula-based allocations distribution system.
  • Michigan is also partnering with local providers to target people of color through mobile clinics, federally qualified health centers, and community-based vaccinators. Results obtained indicate that Michigan achieves the best public health by going into neighborhoods and working with communities to address the needs of people who do not have access to transportation, including those that are home-bound.
  • Michigan has set a benchmark (an explicit goal) to have zero vaccine distribution disparities, similar to its endeavors on COVID_19 cases and related deaths. However, press statements revealed by Joneigh Khaldun indicated that there is no deadline, and the state hopes to achieve zero vaccine distribution disparity “as soon as possible.”
  • Experts believe that Michigan’s path to COVID-19 immunity (based on the current pace) may take two years. This estimate is the time interval after which the state’s 10 million residents are likely to achieve herd immunity.
  • By Monday, January 11, 2021, Michigan’s public health agencies and health care providers had administered 245,191 vaccine shots from 829,200 doses distributed to hospitals, nursing homes, county health agencies, pharmacies, community health care clinics, and home health care companies.
  • Michigan administers an average of 61,300 vaccines weekly. It will require a minimum of two years to cover the 80% threshold at which the majority of its population will be immune to COVID-19.


  • COVID-19 vaccination data collected from Pennsylvania reveals that its vaccination attempt is fraught with “stark racial disparities.” White residents are getting vaccinated at twice the rate observed among Black residents.
  • Pennsylvania has one of the most pronounced COVID-19 vaccination disparities based on race. The ratio of vaccination among its White population compared to its Black population is “more than 3 to 1.”
White Americans are being vaccinated faster than Black Americans
  • In a recent press release, the Pennsylvania Department of Health stated that “its system of designating some coronavirus vaccines” for those who have already had their first dose makes the state appear to lag behind other states in the administration of shots.
  • In terms of vaccination threshold, Pennsylvania is “below the national average.” Out of about 2 million doses made available to the state, barely 54% (over 1 million doses) had been administered as of Tuesday, February 2, 2021. Pennsylvania is ranked 44th among 50 states based on how quickly vaccines get administered into people’s shoulders.
  • Some people are failing “to show up for their second dose” of vaccines. To eliminate disparities caused by absenteeism, any vaccine meant for someone who does not turn up for immunization now goes to another person on a waitlist.
  • Faith community leaders are frequently engaged to reduce vaccination disparity among various population sets in Pennsylvania. These community leaders are intervening and building trust among Philadelphia’s brown and Black communities.
  • To boost the ratio of colored individuals getting COVID-19 vaccines, church community leaders recently clad in black T-shirts inscribed with “Mercy & Penn Medicine & The Community #VaccineCollaborative.” They assembled supplies and paperwork, provided tables and chairs in church lobbies and classrooms, and hung dark coverings on windows to provide privacy for individuals to be vaccinated. Using this method, at least 500 worshipers of West and Southwest Philadelphia church recently vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Faith-based community leaders like pastors and imams are gradually helping to eliminate the disparity in the administration of COVID-19 vaccines. They help undo the memories associated with mistrust due to over “400 years of ill” treatment among people of color (especially Black Americans).
  • Faith community leaders often act as influencers and engage their community members to assure congregants of the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. P.J. Brennan (the chief medical officer) and Phil Okala (the chief operating officer) of the University of Pennsylvania Health System recently devised the idea to leverage faith-based community leaders to influence community members to reduce vaccination disparity.
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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