The Unique Challenges of a COVID-19 Vaccine: Solved!
By: Sarma Velamuri, M.D., Mihir Pethe
Dec 9th 2020
The COVID-19 vaccines are arriving soon, and while their arrival is welcome, they also present particular problems. Distributing vaccines to over 300 million Americans in a quick and efficient manner will take operational excellence, attention to detail, and can become reality by empowering every person in the workflow chain with the information they need.
The timeline for doing so is very short: with FDA approval for the Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines likely coming within the month, key stakeholders have just weeks to implement robust systems.
Healthcare workers are likely to begin to be vaccinated as soon as this week in some places, and nursing home residents in early January. Vaccines for the general public are likely to be widely available sometime between April and June. Failure to implement systems that can handle tracking the vaccination process could prolong our already lengthy COVID-19 experience.
Public Health Departments
City and Municipal Public Health departments will be the key to ensuring their communities stay healthy and safe. They need to ask themselves a variety of questions before they get the vaccine:
How will they allocate and track the vaccine?
Public health departments will need to allocate the limited number of vaccines to maximize community protection and save lives. To do this, their vaccination tracking system should be able to integrate with screening tools that they can use to only clear those who most need a vaccine for an appointment. Their vaccination tracking system should be able to tell them who already has gotten a vaccine, both for their internal records as well as the patient’s ability to tout the fact that they have already been vaccinated, a sort of “vaccine passport”. Public health departments will also need to track the allocation of booster shots, as misallocation could lead to massive waste in time and vaccines. Along with who gets a booster shot, the department also needs to remind itself when patients should get that booster shot.
How will they track adverse events and recalls?
Nobody wants adverse events. Nobody wants to get the shot and learn that it has been subject to a recall or that the temperature for a carrying case spiked to +10C while it was being transported. However, this might happen. When it happens, getting hold of people quickly and taking remedial action is critical.
Manning a call center in this day and age is not required. Syndromic surveillance tools like Luminare’s Quickscreen for Public Health frees people up to do more useful tasks that software robots cannot do.
What happens if someone in the community gets the vaccine and then gets the infection?
Hopefully, this never happens. If it does happen, having data at your fingertips to contact everyone in that vaccine batch is critical.
Will they be able to integrate with other data platforms?
Different stakeholders will want to know different pieces of information, and the proper vaccination tracking system should be able to seamlessly share that data.
Patients may want to be able to prove that they have been vaccinated and may want digital confirmation “passports”.
Public health departments may want to integrate with state and federal agencies to have up-to-date information on allocation practices, vaccine inventory, manufacturing information, wastage, recalls and other critical centralized data. Finally, in a push for clarity, a municipality may want to allow data sharing that gives the community access to progress data and information about the vaccinated population.
Along with Municipal Public Health departments, hospital systems are at the frontlines of the vaccination campaign. As private entities, they must juggle a variety of reporting and operational needs that government organizations do not.
How will they integrate their systems with the broader vaccine campaign?
Hospital systems need to integrate with public agencies so that vaccination distribution can be coordinated effectively. This may involve either pulling in data that a county has aggregated to make decisions, or it may be reporting data back to the county.
How do hospitals do their role in quality assurance during the campaign?
Hospital systems are likely to be delivering a great deal of the vaccines, and they need to be vigilant that appointments are given to those who need them most. Like public health departments, hospitals should link screening tools to their vaccine appointment scheduling. With so much to juggle, hospitals are likely to face operational challenges when scheduling appointments. To make that scheduling easier, they should use software solutions that can link all the various inputs they need into one scheduling tool, thereby allowing patients to quickly schedule online while ensuring they meet all the criteria for a vaccine.
Businesses, Schools, and other Stakeholders
Businesses, school systems, and a variety of other stakeholders should also be aware of the operational challenges that the vaccine may present. These operational challenges can be made simple by having the correct software tools in place before complexity arises.
Facilities that are staffed will need to consider vaccination strategy.
Any type of facility that has employees will need to make decisions around social distancing and vaccinations. This may include offices, plants, workshops, or any other type of facility where a business may conduct its day-to-day business. A business may decide to track employee vaccination status and have only those who have been vaccinated return to certain facilities but may continue to enforce social distancing policies in others. To keep track of their policies and enforce them, businesses need to have robust systems in place.
Customers present unique challenges for businesses.
Because customers visit irregularly when compared to normal employees or staff, they present different problems as businesses adjust to having them back. Should businesses screen based on vaccination status such as a “digital passport?” Airlines have talked about doing such a thing, but it may not be necessary for a theme park. Different choices mean different tracking needs, and as businesses adjust along a spectrum of choices, they should implement systems that have the flexibility to handle whichever choice they feel is best for them.
Building a system that can handle all an institution’s needs for the upcoming vaccination will be difficult for any organization without the requisite expertise in software.
Along with meeting all of the predicted operational needs, the system will likely need to be flexible to unforeseen challenges. With Innoculate, Luminare has developed a unique and one-of-a-kind product that we know can meet the challenges of your organization so you can be ready for the future. If interested in learning more, feel free to contact our team.