Equitable bivalent booster allocation strategies against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants in US cities with large Hispanic communities: The case of El Paso County, Texas

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COVID-19 is a disease that disproportionately impacts the Hispanic population, due to the prevalence of certain risk factors and the high number of essential workers in this community. In this work, we analyze the vaccination strategies that would minimize the COVID-19 health disparities in El Paso County, TX, in the context of the emergence of a new highly transmissible and immune-escaping SARS-CoV-2 variant. We stratify an age-structure stochastic SEIR model that tracks the evolution of immunity derived from infections and vaccination according to Hispanic vs non-Hispanic ethnicity and parameterize it to the demographic, health and immunization data of El Paso County, TX. After fitting the model, the results show that increasing vaccination with bivalent boosters by five-fold in anticipation of highly transmissible and immune escaping variants would decrease the cumulative hospital admissions and mortality from Mar 1, 2023, to Dec 31, 2023, by 62.72% and 61.41%, respectively. Further, our projections reveal that the disproportionate impact on the Hispanic community would be eliminated if approximately half of the doses that are given to the non-Hispanic group according to the equal distribution, would be re-allocated to the Hispanic population. Our findings can guide public health officials in US cities with large Hispanic communities and help them design vaccination strategies that minimize COVID-19 health disparities caused by emerging variants using specific vaccination strategies.