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Learnings From the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Roundtable

Lindsay Adams
April 20, 2021
Min Read

The United States has come a long way in its COVID-19 vaccination efforts with nearly 25% of the population fully vaccinated at this time. However, the agility and efficiency of healthcare organizations and government agencies will continue to be tested as we strive to reach herd immunity.

In an effort to continue this ongoing discussion and bring clarity to the COVID-19 vaccination rollout process, we hosted a live panel discussion featuring leaders from Johns Hopkins University, The Fishers Health Department, and Coastal Cloud.

Here are some of the top takeaways from the full panel discussion.

What has been the most significant improvement in the vaccine rollout?

To get us started, Fortune Reporter David Morris had our panelists introduce themselves and answer what they felt has been the most significant improvement in the vaccine rollout since it started.

Dr. Tinglong Dai, an Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins University, noted that the rollout process has seen daily changes, but they have progressed in a positive direction.

“Looking back, we’re actually doing a great job. The U.S. is actually leading the world in terms of COVID-19 vaccination and the next stage we just need to worry about how to get people to be willing to get vaccinated.” - Dr. Tinglong Dai

Dr. Monica Heltz from the Fishers Indiana Health Department echoed Dr. Dai’s sentiment that the U.S., and Indiana in particular, are meeting challenges head-on and seeing continued growth.

Our final panelist was Douglas Havron, Director of Public Sector Emergency Management for Coastal Cloud, who touched on the challenges of the vaccine rollout from a technical perspective with small and large platforms becoming overwhelmed by the number of registrations coming in at once. 

How can implementing pre-registration processes help online registrations become more effective? 

The common consensus around implementing pre-registration models for vaccine rollout was overwhelmingly positive. One of the greater challenges in the early stages of vaccine rollout was the mass amount of people trying to get vaccine appointments at the same time, whether that be in-person at a local hospital or clinic, or flooding online portals to try and get an appointment.

Pre-registration models pave the way for more load-balancing from a technological perspective, which allows the time and space needed to expand these technologies to be more robust. 

Why is it important to have a pre-registration model?

Douglas Havron compared the United States’ early online appointment models to fans trying to buy tickets to see Elton John—people are buying them all at once and they sell out quickly. The pre-registration model is a more stable process and has made registration for appointments more routine.

“The bottom line has been the success of allowing people to register on a routine basis. And then, as vaccine allocation becomes available, targeting those messages to those individuals who most qualify and facilitating that registration.” - Douglas Havron

Has the U.S. federal structure for vaccine distribution proved to be an advantage?

Dr. Dai noted that the way the U.S. has structured its federal rollout has paved the way for states to learn from each other. He used West Virginia as an example of success. Even though West Virginia has less wealth and a lot of rural areas, they implemented the pre-registration model as early as January and are one of the leading states in the country for a successful rollout.

By comparison, while a state similar in size, Maryland has more wealth than West Virginia, but has struggled to reach the same amount of success as its neighboring state. However, Maryland is quickly catching up through witnessing West Virginia’s success. 

How do we understand the strange phenomenon where broad openings are seemingly slowing down the vaccination rollout across states? 

Dr. Dai pointed out that the broad openings across the U.S. have added more layers to the vaccine rollout process, which naturally slows things as states work through those layers.

“On the one hand, I think it’s better to let states decide what to do, but on the other hand, states should have some sort of coordination and centralization mechanism so they do not just dedicate everything and look at departments that are underfunded and overutilize resources to them.” - Dr. Tinglong Dai

Dr. Monica Heltz added that “the single greatest factor that has helped us here has been having a centralized registration, scheduling, and documentation system, so we’re all working out of the same system.” She also noted that Indiana has one of the lowest funding rates in the country for local health departments, supporting Dr. Dai’s comments that a more thought-out registration process implemented as quickly as possible has a more positive impact on successful rollout than having more funding. 

One thing affecting the U.S. is vaccine hesitancy. What steps do we need to take to help alleviate this problem? 

Douglas Havron noted that more access to the vaccine can help subside hesitancy. Some of this entails bridging transportation gaps with more readily available vaccines, as well as people feeling better about going and getting their vaccine knowing there are more appointments available to the mass populous.

Dr. Monica Heltz added that the more people who get vaccinated who “do well with it” can positively influence others to do the same. She also noted that the more vaccine strands added to the already known Pfizer and Moderna strands will help hesitancy because it allows people to feel like they have a choice in the one they feel most comfortable getting.

Later in the discussion, Dr. Dai weighed in on individuals feeling a sense of pride in getting vaccinated because they are doing a service to the greater community in helping the U.S. reach herd immunity. He stressed that we need to stop “vaccine shaming” because while getting vaccinated is a personal decision, it shouldn’t be lost that there is a much greater impact on society as a whole.

The COVID-19 vaccination rollout effort continues to be a monumental undertaking, but these stories from the frontlines show immense progress. With the help of technology and continuing to talk about the positive societal impact of getting vaccinated, the U.S. will continue to forge its way to herd immunity.

Watch the full panel discussion COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Roundtable: Lessons from the Frontlines now. 


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Lindsay Adams
Lindsay is the Communications Manager at Formstack. She graduated from San Diego State University and has dabbled in most digital marketing fields throughout her career. She has a strong passion for 280 characters, creating one-of-a-kind memes, and chronological algorithms even though no major social network uses them anymore.
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