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New Research From University Of Pittsburgh Reveals Some People Are Living In 'Vaccine Desert'

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Scheduling an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine has been a major headache for so many.

Some people are traveling long distances just to get their hands on one. And while full appointment books are one thing, new research from the University of Pittsburgh revealed some people are living in a "vaccine desert."

Researchers discovered that in some communities, people are driving more than 10 miles for a coronavirus vaccine — not just because there are no appointments available, but there are no places around to administer them.

"With our analysis, we wanted to highlight areas with additional barriers to getting a vaccine, like long driving distance," said University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy assistant professor Lucas Brenbrok.

Using a sample population and geographical data, researchers made maps that pinpointed possible vaccination sites across the country. Researchers found some are hitting a speed bump in the distribution process.

"We found that in 69 counties across the United States, Black Americans would have to travel farther to get a vaccine than white Americans," said Brenbrok.

The maps show some of the worst counties for vaccine access to Black people are in Georgia, Missouri and Louisiana. Nearly three-quarters of those areas are where COVID-19 infections are high, according to UPMC.

While western Pennsylvania was not one of these places, UPMC said there are other issues that need to be addressed.

Dr. Graham Snyder, UPMC's medical director for infection prevention and hospital epidemiology, said, "There are disparities in who has access to computers, who has the availability of time to sit at the computer and play the system where you are literally shopping for a vaccine."

Transportation to those vaccine appointments is another issue people are facing, Snyder said. That is why UPMC is planning on bringing people to these sites using systems like ride-sharing services and EMS partners.

There are also plans on creating mobile vans to bring the vaccine to people. Representatives from UPMC and Pitt hope leaders in public policy see this new research and use it to address the healthcare disparities in their communities.

Click here for more from the University of Pittsburgh's research.

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