February 23, 2021

As North Carolina prepares to enter Phase 3 of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, it is critical that local health officials are able to estimate demand within each phase with valid population estimates. This includes Phases 1 and 2, which may not be complete in every county. In response, the North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH), housed within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill, created a set of dashboards to assist local planning by providing valid population estimates for the phased distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in N.C.

For example, if a health department employee in Montgomery County wants to estimate how many county residents might want to make vaccine appointments in Phase 3, they can access the Phase 3 tab in the dashboard, select their county from the list and see that there are nearly 700 people employed in education instruction and library occupations.

Phase 2 data are broken down by race and gender, and the dashboards can be used to ensure that the vaccine is being equitably distributed across a county. For example, a county could identify disparities in vaccine administration by comparing race and ethnicity figures from this dashboard to data on who has actually received the vaccine according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) vaccine dashboard.

Matt Simon

Matt Simon

“We have heard over and over about supply and demand, and we know you can’t plan unless you can anticipate demand,” said Matt Simon, NCIPH senior data and GIS analyst. “We must also focus on improving equity in our distribution. State and county leaders could use this tool in concert with the N.C. vaccine distribution data from NCDHHS to make sure that people of color and those that have historically had less power don’t continue to be left behind.”

The NCIPH dashboards estimate the number of people eligible during the first three phases of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Most estimates are from the American Community Survey (ACS) conducted by the United States census and represent the average value over the five-year period from 2015-2019. Initial support and data for Phase 2 were provided by the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

  • Phase 1: Health care workers with direct patient contact and staff and residents of long-term care facilities
  • Phase 2: Any person 65 years of age or older (current phase)
  • Phase 3: Teachers and childcare workers (begins February 24) and other essential workers with a high risk of exposure (begins March 15)

The dashboards are best viewed on a larger screen (not mobile-friendly) and can be accessed online.

These data include a margin of error because they are based on U.S. census estimates. When these margins are too high, the indicator box will turn pink, letting the user know that they should use these estimates with caution and seek out additional data.

This is a planning tool to assist with vaccination roll-out. For the total number of people actually vaccinated in each county, including by race, ethnicity, age and gender, visit the NCDHHS vaccine dashboard.

For the most up-to-date information on the current vaccine distribution phase, visit NCDHHS’s COVID-19 Response site.

This work was supported by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. Any technical questions about the dashboard or suggestions for improvement can be directed to Matt Simon.

Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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