In some regions of the United States, fewer people have received the coronavirus vaccine, which is due in part to vaccine resistance. Wide variations in healthcare coverage, particularly in rural regions, hindered vaccination attempts during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published in the journal Lancet Regional Health. The results highlight a hidden gap in access to healthcare in America between those who have convenient geographic and financial access and those who do not. An multinational team of researchers looked into variations in vaccination rates among 2,417 U.S. counties under the direction of epidemiologist Diego Cuadros from the University of Cincinnati. They discovered that vaccination coverage is influenced by the accessibility of medical resources.
More than 6.3 million people have died as a result of the epidemic globally, including more than 1 million in only the United States. Researchers blame the country’s relatively high death rate on immunisation failures as compared to other nations. The incidence of vaccination varies significantly across the United States, according to Cuadros, an associate professor of geography in the College of Arts and Sciences at UC. He noted that while some people may be hesitant to be immunised due to baseless worries or false information, that only tells a portion of the picture.
“During the pandemic we realized the huge health care disparity we have in this country,” he said. Access to healthcare is hampered by factors including cost, insurance, and transportation. In nationwide studies, 20% or so of Americans have stated that they are opposed to vaccination.
The bigger unvaccinated population is unaccounted for by this. While the majority of people in every state of the United States are now completely immunised, certain states have made significant progress over others. Cuadros said that during the delta and omicron waves, the virus killed the most people in places with poor vaccination rates, highlighting the severe effects that health inequalities may have on marginalised groups.
Even in regions with easy access to health care, the pandemic created significant interruptions to such services, according to co-author Neil MacKinnon, provost of Augusta University in Georgia. Less frequent medical visits resulted in an increase in the number of cancer and other illness cases that went undetected.
“Our study demonstrates that these disruptions were not uniform across the United States,” MacKinnon said. “Many counties, especially those in rural areas, experienced significant disruptions in health care, including the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine itself.”
According to the current data, persons in underprivileged neighbourhoods had a 34% lower likelihood of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. These included the least vaccinated counties in Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.
“America’s healthcare system has improvements to be made to address historical disparities that, as shown in our study, can influence individual-level decision-making,” study co-author and UC geography student Santiago Escobar said. “Our study suggests clear disparities that need to be addressed.”
The study highlights the importance of immunisation in preventing disorders like COVID-19, according to co-author Phillip Coule, M.D., chief medical officer for Augusta University Health in Georgia.
“Those responsible for guiding health policy need to consider issues such as vaccination rates, access to care and health disparities when evaluating outcomes from COVID-19 and other conditions,” he said.