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Higher COVID-19 vaccination rates are linked to decreased county-level COVID-19 incidence across USA

By Arjun Puranik, AJ Venkatakrishnan, Colin Pawlowski, Bharathwaj Raghunathan, Eshwan Ramudu, Patrick Lenehan, Vineet Agarwal, Savita Jayaram, Mayank Choudhary, Venky Soundararajan

Posted 08 Mar 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.05.21252946

Real world evidence studies of mass vaccination across health systems have reaffirmed the safety and efficacy of the FDA-authorized mRNA vaccines for COVID-19. However, the impact of vaccination on community transmission remains to be characterized. Here, we compare the cumulative county-level vaccination rates with the corresponding COVID-19 incidence rates among 87 million individuals from 580 counties in the United States, including 12 million individuals who have received at least one vaccine dose. We find that cumulative county-level vaccination rate through March 1, 2021 is significantly associated with a concomitant decline in COVID-19 incidence (Spearman correlation = -0.22, p-value = 8.3e-8), with stronger negative correlations in the Midwestern counties ( = -0.37, p-value = 1.3e-7) and Southern counties ( = -0.33, p-value = 4.5e-5) studied. Additionally, all examined US regions demonstrate significant negative correlations between cumulative COVID-19 incidence rate prior to the vaccine rollout and the decline in the COVID-19 incidence rate between December 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021, with the US western region being particularly striking ( = -0.66, p-value = 5.3e-37). However, the cumulative vaccination rate and cumulative incidence rate are noted to be statistically independent variables, emphasizing the need to continue the ongoing vaccination roll out at scale. Given confounders such as different coronavirus restrictions and mask mandates, varying population densities, and distinct levels of diagnostic testing and vaccine availabilities across US counties, we are advancing a public health resource to amplify transparency in vaccine efficacy monitoring (https://public.nferx.com/covid-monitor-lab/vaccinationcheck). Application of this resource highlights outliers like Dimmit county (Texas), where infection rates have increased significantly despite higher vaccination rates, ostensibly owing to amplified travel as a vaccination hub; as well as Henry county (Ohio) which encountered shipping delays leading to postponement of the vaccine clinics. This study underscores the importance of tying the ongoing vaccine rollout to a real-time monitor of spatio-temporal vaccine efficacy to help turn the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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