Step One: Identify Objectives and Community (or Communities) of Focus
An important first step of rapid community assessment is to identify the primary objectives. Examples include:
- Learn more about perceptions of communities that may have significant concerns and questions about COVID-19 vaccines.
- Learn about COVID-19 vaccination barriers and enablers.
- Develop strategies for reinforcing vaccine confidence among communities of focus and addressing barriers preventing individuals from getting vaccinated.
- Understand how misinformation or too much information is influencing vaccine perceptions and how to address this.
- Tailor communication/behavioral strategies for increasing COVID-19 vaccine uptake based on community needs.
Formulate the objective(s) as a question–one that working with the community can help answer.
Consider these factors when deciding where to focus:
- Vaccine rollout: Focus on a population for whom vaccines will be available in the next one to two months.
- Populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19: Populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19 will be prioritized to receive the vaccine. These categories include, but are not limited to:
- People at increased risk of death due to COVID-19
- Critical infrastructure workforce
- People at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness
- People at increased risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19
- People with limited access to routine vaccination services
Criteria to help prioritize include:
- Communities with disproportionately high rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe COVID-19 disease or death (either historically or recently in “hotspots”)
- Communities with high rates of underlying health conditions that place them at greater risk for severe COVID-19 disease (e.g., heart disease, lung disease, obesity)
- Communities likely to experience barriers to accessing COVID-19 vaccination services (e.g., geographical barriers, health system barriers, language and cultural barriers, mixed household status barriers, and immigration status barriers)
- Communities likely to have low acceptance of or confidence in COVID-19 vaccines (e.g., Blacks, Native Americans, Alaska natives, and indigenous people for Latin America)
- Communities where COVID-19 mitigation measures (e.g., mask wearing, social distancing) have not been widely adopted
- Communities with challenges in previous phases of COVID-19 vaccine rollout
- Communities with historically low adult vaccination rates
- Communities with a history of mistrust in health authorities or the medical establishment (e.g., Blacks, refugees, non-U.S.-citizens, Native Americans, Alaska natives, and indigenous people for Latin America)
- Communities with a history of mistrust in government agencies (e.g., Blacks, refugees, non-U.S.-citizens, Native Americans, Alaska natives, and indigenous people for Latin America)
- Communities not well-known to health authorities or have not traditionally been the focus of immunization programs (e.g., Non-U.S.-born persons, particularly non-U.S.-citizens, migrant and seasonal workers)
After identifying your focus community(ies), rapidly review existing data sources to understand the focus community’s demographics, health status, and how individuals have been impacted by COVID-19. Ask state and local health departments if they have data dashboards with racial and ethnic variables, ZIP Code data, etc.
Examples of Existing Data Sources
Disease and vaccination data:
- COVID-19 disease surveillance data (e.g., cases, testing, hospitalization, deaths)
- COVID-19 vaccine uptake data
- Routine immunization data
Demographic data: used to understand the size, location, socioeconomic status, and composition of the focus community. Examples include:
- Local government data
- U.S. Census Quick Factsexternal icon, available for states, counties, and towns of 5,000 or more
- American Community Surveyexternal icon
Data on race and ethnicity and COVID-19 disease by race and ethnicity
- CDC COVID Data Tracker
- COVID-NET: A Weekly Summary of U.S. COVID-19 Hospitalization Data
- COVIDView: A Weekly Surveillance Summary of U.S. COVID-19 Activity
- The COVID Tracking Project’s The COVID Racial Data Trackerexternal icon
- Emory University’s COVID-19 Health Equity Interactive Dashboardexternal icon
Existing health assessment data: Surveys conducted at the local level to assess community needs, health behaviors, healthcare use practices, or health indicators may be useful to anticipate some potential needs of the community(ies) of focus.
- County Health Rankingsexternal icon
- 500 Cities Project
- Community health assessments conducted by local health departments or nonprofit hospitals
- Other local/community surveys
Peer-reviewed literature: Literature reviews can provide useful information on population characteristics, effective assessment, and intervention strategies. Tutorials on how to conduct a literature review using PubMed® can be accessed through the U.S. National Library of Medicineexternal icon.
Social listening: Review any published reports, online social media discussions, or local news coverage on the COVID-19 impact in your community of focus to better understand the current climate and sentiments about COVID-19 vaccines.