Examining Disparities in Access to COVID-19 Vaccination Sites in Brooklyn, NY

Structural determinants of health--including housing, physical work environment, social support, stress, nutrition and physical activity--have led to health inequities, such as unequal access to care, in underserved communities. During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino populations in New York City (NYC) have had higher totals of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 than White populations. By March 2021, nearly 20% of the non-Hispanic White population in NYC had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, only 9% of the African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino communities had received a dose, making these communities more vulnerable to COVID-19.

A study supported by NIMHD and the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) examined the locations of COVID-19 vaccination sites in Brooklyn, NYC, the most populated borough in the city, from when vaccines where first available to residents to identify factors influencing vaccination disparities in the city.

The study investigators performed a cross-sectional analysis examining the association of vaccination sites in Brooklyn with population demographics and the NYC Government Poverty Measure, an alternative measure of poverty that adjusts for the cost of living in NYC. Race and ethnicity, gender, age, financial information, and other demographics for 2,604,747 residents in Brooklyn were from the 2014 to 2018 American Community Survey.

The NYC Vaccine Finder website was used to identify vaccination locations in Brooklyn and testing and vaccination data were collected from the NYC Health COVID-19: Data website. The distance to each vaccination site (from the center of each zip code included in the analysis) and vaccination rates were averaged for each zip code and included within 18 community districts in Brooklyn. All the calculations presented were for the district level.

The investigators identified 87 vaccination sites throughout Brooklyn. There were fewer vaccination sites in districts with less than 40% non-Hispanic White residents (most commonly 4 sites per district) compared with districts with greater than 40% (most commonly 6 sites per district). Among districts with higher rates of residents living in poverty, the population density for each vaccination site was nearly double that of districts with lower poverty. The investigators noted that the district with the highest percentage of residents living in poverty had no vaccination sites.

Findings from this study identified considerable variation of COVID-19 vaccination site locations in Brooklyn, NYC. Early vaccination efforts in Brooklyn primarily focused on neighborhoods with higher percentages of White residents and areas with lower poverty levels, particularly in districts with high population density. The authors also identified potential vaccination deserts and suggested that multilevel solutions are necessary to make vaccination access more equitable, otherwise the COVID-19-related disparities in hospitalization and deaths will continue to impact underserved communities.


Williams, N., Tutrow, H., Pina, P., Belli, H.M., Ogedegbe, G., and Schoenthaler, A. (2021). Assessment of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Access to COVID-19 Vaccination Sites in Brooklyn, NY. JAMA Netw Open, 4, 6. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.

Page updated January 14, 2022