May 19, 2021 - Health

The social predictors of coronavirus vaccination rates

State vaccination rates and percent uninsured
Data: GoodRx analysis of Census and CDC data; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Where you live, how educated you are, whether you have health insurance and whether you have access to the internet are all correlated with how likely you are to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Why it matters: None of these factors has anything to do directly with an individual's risk. Instead, this emphasizes, yet again, the powerful role played by social determinants of health.

Driving the news: The CDC released a report yesterday showing that only 39% of Americans living in rural counties had been vaccinated as of early April, compared with 46% of people in urban counties.

  • Rural residents are among the demographics most likely to say they don't want a shot. But the CDC also found that a larger portion of rural than urban residents traveled to nonadjacent counties — or counties farther away from where they live — to be vaccinated, suggesting access issues.
State vaccination rates and households without internet access
Data: GoodRx analysis of Census and CDC data; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Between the lines: Experts have been warning of geographic, income, and racial vaccine disparities since before the vaccination effort even began. But other social factors also appear to have a relationship with vaccination rates, according to a new analysis by GoodRx.

  • For example, states with a higher portion of households without internet access tend to have lower vaccination rates. This could be related to the widespread use of online platforms for booking vaccine appointments.
  • States with higher uninsured rates also tend to have lower vaccination rates, even though uninsured Americans are receiving their shot for free. Polling has shown that a substantial number of people still have cost-related concerns about vaccination.

The bottom line: It's impossible to pull out a single factor and point to it as the driver of good or bad vaccination rates. Instead, these rates — like so many other health care statistics — are the product of a complex interplay of many social factors.

  • And many of these interrelated social factors are what made some of the same populations with lower vaccination rates more vulnerable to severe coronavirus infections to begin with.
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