City University of New York
When influenza vaccines are in short supply, allocating vaccines equitably among different jurisdictions can be challenging. But justice is not the only reason to ensure that poorer counties have the same access to influenza vaccines as do wealthier ones. Using a detailed computer simulation model of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region, we found that limiting or delaying vaccination of residents of poorer counties could raise the total number of influenza infections and the number of new infections per day at the peak of an epidemic throughout the region-even in the wealthier counties that had received more timely and abundant vaccine access. Among other underlying reasons, poorer counties tend to have high-density populations and more children and other higher-risk people per household, resulting in more interactions and both increased transmission of influenza and greater risk for worse influenza outcomes. Thus, policy makers across the country, in poor and wealthy areas alike, have an incentive to ensure that poorer residents have equal access to vaccines.