RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A team from the University of North Carolina is helping local and county leaders estimate how many people make up each of the state’s vaccination groups.
The North Carolina Institute for Public Health has created a dashboard that projects the size of those groups both statewide and at the county level, giving decision-makers another tool as they navigate the process of inoculating the millions of people who want those shots.
“What could we do to kind of help health departments better estimate some of the demand?” asked Matt Simon, a leader of the project and a senior data and GIS analyst.
“We were kind of anticipating a need with this,” he said. “We have the capacity … would this be useful?”
It pulls data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources to estimate the size of the first three groups.
State leaders say vaccinations for Group 4 — which includes people between 16 and 64 years old with increased risk of severe illness — will begin March 24, and Simon says his team hopes to have estimates of those sizes next week.
It estimates Group 1 to have at least 440,000 health care workers and people in long term care, with Group 2 consisting of about 1.5 million people older than 65.
The first part of Group 3 includes more than 400,000 teachers and daycare employees with the rest of that group made up of up to 2.5 million frontline essential workers.
“You can’t figure out how many people are in line, but you can at least get a sense of the number of people within each group,” he said.
The projections do not account for overlap — for example, a teacher who is older than 65 would be counted in both groups.
The dashboard has a relatively narrow focus — “I don’t see any other use cases beyond that,” Simon said — but the real value might be the county-level projections, which was one of the main reasons they created it.
While larger counties like Wake and Mecklenburg have the manpower and resources to pull those numbers together on their own, that might not be the case for smaller, strapped counties.
“I think other counties that don’t have as much data capacity, maybe they don’t have epidemiologists on staff at the health department, this information’s not as easy to gather,” Simon said.
He said Hyde County leaders have told him it has been useful.
“To not have to worry about tracking down census data, so having it all in one place … I think that we’re helping,” Simon said. “And that’s always what we want to do.”
CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.