A Comprehensive Analysis of COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
By Adhvaith Vijay (Project Lead), Deana Moghaddas, Sylvia Ma, and Deepthi Gangiredla
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the development of a functional and tested vaccine to combat coronavirus has been a worldwide priority. Not since the mumps epidemic of the 1960s, has a vaccine rollout been so quick. However, the success of the COVID-19 vaccination has been varied with different nations handling the pandemic differently.
Israel leads the pack with 59% of the population fully vaccinated and a staggering 112 doses administered per 100 people — on account of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, both of whom require two doses. On the other end of the spectrum, developing nations such as Afghanistan have seen vaccine distribution stagnate with less than 0.1% of their population inoculated with a vaccine.
As it stands, the United States vaccine rollout has been generally successful, with 195,581,725 doses administered (as of March 31st, 2021). In the figure below, we investigate vaccine rollout on a state-by-state basis.
Currently, 26% of the United States has received the first dose with roughly 14% fully vaccinated. However, this success is disproportionate with vaccination success varying across the nation. At the moment, 30% of the population in Alaska, Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Dakota, Rhode Island, and New Mexico have either received their first dose or are fully inoculated.
Conversely, much of the South is severely lagging behind. Georgia and Alabama are at the bottom of the pack, having each vaccinated less than 20% of their population. Explanations for these discrepancies can be attributed to the higher degree of vaccination hesitancy at both a local and state level across much of the South.
Apart from politics and misinformation, the COVID-19 vaccination programs in states such as Alabama are poorly managed and overwhelmed. Those who are willing to get vaccinated are unable to get appointments, resulting in previous vaccine doses going to waste. However, new mass vaccination clinics are set up every day and thousands of doses continue to be administered as states like Georgia and Alabama play catch-up.
In early December of last year, President Joe Biden pledged to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccines within his first 100 days in office. In order to see if the Biden administration was on track to meet this goal, we decided to make time-series predictions. Using Facebook Prophet, we forecast the success of administered vaccines — paying special attention to April 29th (Biden’s 100th day in office).
More than two months into Biden’s administration, the results speak for themselves. On March 18th, 58 days into the Biden administration, the goal of administering 100 million vaccines to the American people was met. In fact, due to this unprecedented success, Biden released a statement on March 25th, raising his vaccination goal to 200 million shots within his first 100 days of office. Based on our projections, by his 100th day of office (April 29th), the Biden administration will be responsible for 1.931870e+08, or roughly 200 million, administered vaccines.
Looking at the above forecasts, the black dots represent actual data points. The dark blue line provides us with a regression curve to gauge how many doses may be administered on a particular day. Lastly, the shaded light blue region represents our margin of error for our predictions. As expected, the further we look into the future, the larger our margin of error becomes since variability in our population increases.
At the moment, California has administered roughly 79% of the COVID-19 vaccines at its disposal. However, vaccine efforts are disproportionate across the state. In order to recognize why this disparity exists, we sought to visualize vaccine success across California at a county level.
Looking at the above map, smaller counties with fewer people lead the pack in vaccinating their residents. Mono County is a prime example of this trend. Shown in dark green along the border of Nevada, Mono has managed to vaccinate 72% of residents. Mono’s smaller northern neighbor, Alpine county, has performed the best across California by successfully vaccinating 82% of its population. Inoculation, however, can be successful even in more densely populated regions. For example, San Diego county — which boasts the state’s 2nd highest population — has still managed to vaccinate nearly 50% of its 3.3 million inhabitants. On the other hand, Orange County (which has a near-identical population, and is far denser than San Diego county), has only managed to vaccinate 45% of its population. Varied rates of success can be attributed to the structure of priority groups across different county borders, coupled with varying degrees of vaccine hesitancy. Furthermore, counties are not allocated vaccines based purely on population. Instead, counties are distributed vaccines based on the population of residents who belong in a priority group (i.e. health care workers, nursing home residents, and residents over the age of 65).
Regardless of County specific success, California is on par to successfully vaccinate all of its citizens within the year. In order to gauge when California might achieve this lofty goal, we once again decided to perform time-series forecasting by using Facebook Prophet.
Rather than concentrating on the number of administered vaccines, we look at how the percent of vaccinated Californians varies with time. Experts believe that 75 to 85% of the Californian population would have to get vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity.
Extrapolating, using the more conservative estimate of 85%, we forecast that herd immunity in California could be achieved as early as June 2021. Inoculating every Californian, although unrealistic, could theoretically happen by early July based on current vaccination trends.
Politics and Vaccination Success
California, New York, Florida, and Texas are the four most heavily populated states in the United States, and often serve as political battlegrounds. Much to everyone’s dismay, the COVID-19 pandemic quickly became political even as science provides us with answers about mitigation and prevention of COVID-19. The graphs below represent the daily percent change in vaccines administered, comparing CA/NY (states run by Democratic governors) to TX/FL (states run by Republican governors).
New York and California have relatively high median daily percent changes with Florida trailing slightly and Texas further behind. This tells us that New York and California have made the most daily consistent improvement in vaccine inoculation thus far, as they continue to build better infrastructure to handle vaccine administration. It may be important to note that New York only recently shot up in median daily percent change with California previously leading the way. Reasons for this deviation could be attributed to the introduction of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine popular across the West Coast.
With more research into policies concerning vaccine distribution and administration, we find that vaccine success is attributed to location, state partnerships, and local policies (i.e. vaccine eligibility tiers, allocated funds for vaccination sites, etc.).
What has largely contributed to California’s success in vaccine progress is their new public-private partnership with Blue Shield. Blue Shield is a health insurance company whose role has been to select and manage the vast array of inoculation providers (including but not limited to hospitals, community clinics, pharmacies, and mobile clinics). Blue Shield’s administrative success has helped propel California from 1 million to 3 million vaccine doses each week. This success is not temporary, with Blue Shield already planning to increase capacity to deliver 4 million vaccinations weekly across California.
The figure to the left displays the average daily number of vaccinations administered under former President Trump and President Biden. Biden was sworn in on January 20th, 2021, a mere 38 days after the first vaccine was administered on December 14th, 2020. The dramatic shift in daily vaccinations that took place once Biden came into power is a result of better distribution infrastructure and organizational capabilities by both state and local governments. As with any nationwide effort, with more time and resources vaccine progress will continue to steadily increase.
The Vaccine Race
The COVID-19 pandemic created a “vaccine race” wherein multiple companies fought for dominance in the global marketplace. In order to get an idea of which manufacturers and, in turn, which vaccines are the most popular, we looked at historical data concerning vaccine distribution.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine takes the lead as the most prominent vaccine used around the world. Having recently overtaken the popular Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford/AstraZeneca variant has now been distributed to 99 countries. The reason for this sudden success is likely attributed to the logistics surrounding the Oxford vaccine. Unlike the Pfizer jab, the Oxford vaccine can be stored at refrigerator temperatures (between 36°F and 46°F) allowing it to reach rural areas that lack subzero storage facilities. Compared to the Moderna and Pfizer options, which must be stored at -4°F and -94°F respectively, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine remains effective and stable even when transported long distances.
As expected, regional vaccines tend to be less popular globally. A prime example of this trend would be the Sputnik V vaccine which is predominantly used across Eastern Europe and Eurasia. However, with the global demand for vaccines surpassing the current supply, even less-tested vaccines, such as Sputnik V, are beginning to be authorized in places like the European Union. Similarly, China’s vaccine front-runners — Sinovac and Sinopharm — are starting to make their way overseas. As more data about these vaccines come out and manufacturing increases, a wider array of vaccines can be expected to reach more countries.
Vaccine disparity is a global problem, with high-income countries often supplied with enough doses to cover more than twice their adult population.
In order to observe the severity of global vaccine inequality, we look to see if an association exists between economic wealth and vaccine success across different nations.
Looking at the above graph there is a clear positive association between vaccination success and national income per capita. The frontrunners in vaccine distribution include Israel (ISR), United Arab Emirates (ARE), the United Kingdom (GBR), and the United States (USA).
At the moment, more than three-quarters of vaccines administered globally have been given to just 10 nations. High-income countries continue to push more vaccine doses leaving many governments without any inoculation plan or efforts in place. Although this approach is beneficial to individual countries in the short term, hoarding resources will only prolong the pandemic further. COVID-19 variants continue to evolve, and uninoculated nations may become the breeding ground for deadly strains of COVID-19.
Fiscally speaking, analysts project that leaving poorer nations unvaccinated could cost the global economy 9 trillion USD due to the possible disruption of global supply chains. For the greater good, richer nations ought to donate to the global COVAX pool of vaccines, while continuing to vaccinate their own citizens.
Looking at Twitter
On top of investigating vaccine trends, we sought to investigate COVID-19 and vaccine-related sentiment. Twitter was the perfect medium to achieve this, due to the vast amounts of user-generated language data that the platform produces each day.
We start by querying tweets from the last week of March 2021. Using the Twitter API we were able to programmatically collect 80,000 tweets and retweets with the hashtag: #covid19. Ideally, we aimed to query data as far back as March 2020. However, Twitter’s developer limitations prevent us from looking too far back in the future to collect data.
In order to get an overarching idea of where COVID-19 is talked about the most, we superimposed a heatmap over the commonly used Mercator projection, as seen below. We proceeded to visualize the tweet counts of the top 100 cities that produce the most COVID-19 related content.
Geographical Distribution of Tweets Across Cities
Regions on the map that are especially dense, and hence contain multiple cities, are denoted by a number (e.g. ‘16’ in the case of Europe). Once this number is clicked on, you can zoom in to a particular region and see how COVID-19 tweet count varies between neighboring cities or across an entire continent.
Geographical Distribution of Tweets Across Countries
We sought to replicate our results from earlier — now with a focus on the geographical distribution of tweets across countries. From the start, the United States produces the most COVID-19 related tweets of any nation. This is expected seeing as the U.S. has nearly 69.3 million active Twitter users — more than any other nation. India, which contributes a staggering 17.5 million Twitter users, is also one of the top producers of COVID-19 content. Interestingly, the United States and India together contribute more content than nearly all other nations combined. This could be explained by both the size and the sheer number of COVID-19 cases and deaths tied to the U.S. and India. The United States is responsible for 31 million COVID-19 cases and more than half a million deaths. Similarly, India reports 12 million COVID-19 cases and has close to 200,000 COVID-19 fatalities. Consequently, both countries rank among the top five nations in which COVID-19 has spread.
Looking at a word cloud of the tweets gathered, a few trends appear. With the explosion of administered vaccines since January, there has been a significant rise in vaccination content. This explains the instances of tweets containing ‘vaccine’, ‘dose’, ‘vaccination’, ‘need’, ‘via’, and ‘get’. Additionally, with new strains evolving and COVID-19 continuing to ravage millions worldwide, there is clear concern in user tweets, with phrases such as ‘new’, ‘global’, and ‘death’ appearing frequently.
In an effort to get a snapshot of our tweet sentiment, we sought to look at 20 relevant entities related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike words, tweet entities provide metadata and contextual information about Twitter content. Examples of entities include hashtags, user mentions, hyperlinks, attached media, as well as Twitter polls.
Having found the sentiment count for each of our entities of interest, we sought to first group our 20 entities into three categories: Vaccines, Prominent Figures, and Global. We then proceeded to color-code those entities in each group that had the most negative (red), neutral (orange), and positive (green) sentiment.
Looking at Vaccines, Johnson & Johnson has had the best reception, and Sputnik V received the most negative sentiment. Interestingly, we found that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine currently has only been administered in the United States and South Africa. Considering it has only been administered in a select few areas, is easily storable, and exists as a single shot, it is not surprising that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine appears to be the most popular choice. Being a regional vaccine, Sputnik V may carry the most negative sentiment due to the general reluctance of the Russian people. Combined with misleading efficacy figures, Sputnik V has generally been poorly tested and many leading experts cast doubt on its effectiveness.
Across politicians, there is clearly still resentment for Donald Trump even after he has been out of office for two months. This could be owing to the fact that many believe President Trump mismanaged the pandemic while he was in office. Dr. Fauci — the nation’s leading immunology expert — is generally regarded in a positive light, seeing as he is often cited as a voice of reason.
Globally, with the increase in Asian hate crimes, Twitter mentions containing ‘Asian’ have received the most negative sentiment response. A potential reason why this might be the case could be connected to the popularity of labeling COVID-19 the ‘China Virus’ or ‘Asia Virus’ — creating an association between a deadly pandemic and people of Asian descent. Science still trends positively — likely as a result of the vaccination success we have seen thus far.
Although vaccination efforts have rapidly progressed, the fight to overcome COVID-19 is far from over. Vaccines offer a reprieve to at-risk groups but are not necessarily a quick fix. With new COVID-19 variants surfacing every day, we need a system of health systems, clinics, and research organizations to ensure every person who tests positive for COVID-19 does not become a super-spreader. Innovation in both therapeutic drugs and antibodies continues, but cooperation across local, state, and federal governments is crucial to building back better.
Visit our GitHub for more details about our analysis process.