Monday, April 22, 2024

Covid study shows up urban-rural gaps

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Study analyses vaccination uptake during peak vaccination rollout in 2021.
The rural rate of covid vaccination in late 2021 was 11% lower than urban areas.
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Visible gaps between rural and urban covid-19 vaccination rates highlight the need for tailored health responses, according to University of Otago researchers.

Results of the first study to analyse vaccination uptake in rural versus urban settings during the peak period of New Zealand’s national vaccination rollout in 2021 found different population groups had varying levels of vaccine uptake.

Lead author Talis Liepins, PhD candidate in the Department of General Practice and Rural Health, said the findings suggest opportunities for improvements in vaccination delivery models for rural and urban communities, and further highlights the urban-rural divide when it comes to equitable healthcare.

“It is important we advance general awareness around equity of access for rural populations and how health interactions for rural communities differ from urban communities,” he said.

The study, published in Epidemiology and Infection, used a national dataset of 4.3 million health service users.

“By the end of the study period there was a clear urban-rural gradient apparent for all ethnic groups, with greater rurality associated with lower levels of vaccination uptake,” Liepins said.

“Rurality further exacerbated the lower vaccination rates for Māori.”

The researchers also found “considerable variance” in uptake between rural older and rural younger people, with the rural urban differences much more apparent in those younger than 45.

Co-author Professor Garry Nixon, head of the rural section in the Department of General Practice and Rural Health, said these differences, visible across different population groups, suggest different barriers to access.

“This further emphasises the importance of health policy responses tailored to meet the needs of rural populations,” he said.

Funded by the Ministry of Health Covid-19 and National Immunisation Programme, the study is the first of three exploring the covid-19 vaccine rollout in rural NZ. The studies aim to help show how effective the rollout was for different rural populations, identify the barriers and facilitators and guide future policy decisions.

“Our ultimate aim is ensuring equitable vaccination programmes, coverage, and population protection in the future.

“Policy makers and programme funders need to be aware of the urban-rural divide and work to address it through policy development, service or programme development, and funding rural services to meet the needs of the communities they know so well,” Nixon said.

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