Objective: The US recently suffered the fourth and most severe wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This wave was driven by the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron, a highly transmissible variant that infected even vaccinated people. Vaccination coverage disparities have played an important role in shaping the epidemic dynamics. Analyzing the epidemiological impact of this uneven vaccination coverage is essential to understand local differences in the spread and outcomes of the Omicron wave. Therefore, the objective of this study was to quantify the impact of vaccination coverage disparity in the US in the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic during the third and fourth waves of the pandemic driven by the Delta and Omicron variants. Methods: This cross-sectional study used COVID-19 cases, deaths, and vaccination coverage from 2,417 counties. The main outcomes of the study were new COVID-19 cases (incidence rate per 100,000 people) and new COVID-19 related deaths (mortality rate per 100,000 people) at county level and the main exposure variable was COVID-19 vaccination rate at county level. Geospatial and data visualization analyses were used to estimate the association between vaccination rate and COVID-19 incidence and mortality rates for the Delta and Omicron waves. Results: During the Omicron wave, areas with high vaccination rates (>60%) experienced 1.4 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.3–1.7) times higher COVID-19 incidence rate compared to areas with low vaccination rates (<40%). However, mortality rate was 1.6 (95% CI 1.5–1.7) higher in these low-vaccinated areas compared to areas with vaccination rates higher than 60%. As a result, areas with low vaccination rate had a 2.2 (95% CI 2.1–2.2) times higher case-fatality ratio. Geospatial clustering analysis showed a more defined spatial structure during the Delta wave with clusters with low vaccination rates and high incidence and mortality located in southern states. Conclusions: Despite the emergence of new virus variants with differential transmission potential, the protective effect of vaccines keeps generating marked differences in the distribution of critical health outcomes, with low vaccinated areas having the largest COVID-19 related mortality during the Delta and Omicron waves in the US. Vulnerable communities residing in low vaccinated areas, which are mostly rural, are suffering the highest burden of the COVID-19 pandemic during the vaccination era.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||Frontiers in Medicine|
|State||Published - Jun 14 2022|
- geospatial mapping
- healthcare disparities
- omicron variant
ASJC Scopus subject areas