RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Vaccination rates in 89 underserved communities increased by 50 percent during the past month, and the state Department of Health and Human Services says that’s because of its new mapping tool that helps the agency pinpoint trouble spots.

County health officials say DHHS isn’t overstating its significance at all.

“I would definitely say it’s helped us out tremendously,” Durham County Health Director Rod Jenkins said Tuesday.

Added Ryan Jury, director of Wake County’s mass vaccination branches: “That data has been really helpful at helping us figure out how we can fill in the gaps.”

The map points out census tracts across the state with high rates of social vulnerability and low vaccine uptake rates. 

DHHS focused what it called targeted outreach efforts on 90 such tracts that met those two criteria — as well as having no COVID-19 vaccine providers — as of April 24.

Of those, the vaccination rates in 89 — or, all but one — have risen by 50 percent, DHHS said.

“This map really helped us and our partners focus where they were really using their efforts, creating those partnerships for vaccination,” said Dr. Charlene Wong, the agency’s chief health policy officer for COVID-19.

Wong says DHHS is “hearing stories from across the state, particularly with our vaccine providers, who are saying this map is really changing the way that we are doing our COVID-19 vaccination efforts.”

This kind of targeted push to those communities shapes up to be critical through the rest of the pandemic, Jenkins said, because most people who actively sought out the vaccine have gotten it by now.

He said Durham County has “put an extra premium” on bringing vaccination events to underserved census tracts.

“In the strategy for the state and locally, it’s certainly working in our favor,” Jenkins said.

But what specifically did the map enable DHHS to do for those communities?

The agency says it enrolled new vaccine providers in 19 tracts that didn’t have any before. And it sent community health workers to 11 additional tracts.

“This has helped, not just us at the department, really focusing our efforts on the areas where we can really have the greatest impact,” Wong said.

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.