How Award-Winning Maricopa County Used GIS to Provide Residents with Vaccination Sites
Maricopa County needed to identify the most vulnerable areas in the county and promote optimal vaccination sites to the public. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health needed an effective yet simple method to locate the areas of highest priority and provide information on where to find vaccination sites. In early 2021, Public Health used geographic information system (GIS) technology to launch the COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker and Locator, which helped them build a map application for the public to find the nearest facility distributing the vaccine.
The Challenge of Distributing Resources to All Communities
Maricopa County is the largest county in Arizona and one of the largest counties in the US, based on area. With an area hosting over 4.5 million residents, many of whom are retired or have restricted mobility, reaching them, and providing the COVID-19 vaccine to them would require attention to be placed on accessibility and proximity.
With the community in mind, Maricopa County needed to visualize how to efficiently assess those who had received the vaccine versus those who had not. To create transparency, staff leaned on ArcGIS to create a database that had demographics and vaccination rates. That, in turn, was ported to the Maricopa County Public Health website to let the community know how many people in the area had been vaccinated and which vaccination location was closest to home.
Another challenge in serving Maricopa County during this pandemic was making sure there were sufficient vaccines that could be distributed to all facilities in a quick, productive manner. For an area as large as Maricopa County, it was vital to have an effective system in place. Efficiency and coordination were going to be key if they wanted to give people in these high-risk areas access to the vaccine as soon as possible.
Creating Accessibility to the Masses to Prevent Another Outbreak
With almost 1,400 facilities still needing access to the vaccine, Maricopa County needed to create a quick solution to distribute the vaccine to all residents and avoid further impact of COVID-19. Caring for these individuals was a priority, so Maricopa County did not hesitate to go above and beyond to protect them.
The county's Public Health department asked the Office of Enterprise Technology (OET) to create a meaningful mapping system that could identify vaccination rates based on age, sex, and race, as well as an application that could provide residents with accurate information about the nearest vaccination site and appointment services.
Public Health coordinated with the State of Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) to receive important data needed to complete the geocentric vaccination system. The DHS, which manages the Arizona State Immunization Information System (ASIIS), provided Public Health with the database that tracks all vaccinations in the state. The OET then dissected the state's database to create its own database for Maricopa County, which jump-started the creation of the public applications systems.
Since the OET already had access to Esri GIS software and had received data containing all the necessary components, they were able to move forward with coding the maps and creating the applications for the most up-to-date vaccination site info. The OET utilized the geocoding process to plug in the vaccination data for Maricopa County and created the interactive maps using Esri's ArcGIS Online, which hosted this spatial data. The final developed product, the Public Vaccine Data website, generated various charts, graphs, and maps that showcased metrics for the percentage of population vaccinated in Maricopa County. Users on this site, which was updated weekly, could search a ZIP code that would show them how many people were vaccinated in that area.
In addition to creating the Public Vaccine Data site, the OET also incorporated the COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker and Locator app using Esri's ArcGIS Online. This app assisted residents with finding vaccination resources that showed all the vaccine locations and identified which ones required appointments or allowed walk-ins. For those who lacked proper mobility to get to these sites, mobile teams were formed to go to them. This information made the process of getting the vaccine easy for all residents of Maricopa County.
Achieving Breakthrough by Higher Vaccination Rates
For what would have taken six months or more to complete the two-dose vaccination process at all population centers in the county without GIS, Maricopa County was able to achieve its vaccination goals in just over three months by incorporating GIS into its plan, saving them time and money. GIS was the key to reaching all areas of the county in a short amount of time, and it allowed Maricopa County to work more efficiently and productively in providing vaccination resources and site location information to the public. Since the COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker and Locator app launched, over 1.8 million people have checked it out. As a result, the county vaccinated a vast number of people in the matter of months.
Because the county's vaccination resources were so popular amongst their communities, Maricopa County became recognized by many associations, receiving awards such as the 2021 National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Award. Maricopa County's solution—created with GIS technology for serving the public in finding vaccine locations—propelled the county's mission and allowed staff to set a groundbreaking foundation for future projects needing the same technology. Maricopa County now has a platform for their Public Health department to utilize beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and into other areas of public health.