The COVID-19 pandemic has taken more than 400,000 lives in the United States, and as Americans await their chance to receive the vaccine, the lack of a federal vaccine management system has left states on their own when it comes to distribution.
Vaccinations in the U.S. began on December 14 with health-care workers, and only 16.3 million shots have been given so far, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some states have been able to handle the distribution, including South Dakota, which currently has one of the highest vaccine rates in the country. The state allows people to use an interactive map to contact the correct provider, who then uses various ways to sign people up for their doses, including SurveyMonkey forms and hotlines. And in Michigan, eligible individuals are utilizing a state dashboard to find providers.
But many states simply lack the IT infrastructure needed to effectively handle the distribution, which is causing those areas at a higher risk for COVID-19 to fall behind in vaccinations. While Alabama has had to resort to using a vaccine-scheduling phone hotline, certain counties in Florida actually turned to Eventbrite to help manage the demand. Washington is allowing providers to schedule their own clinics or appointments, and Kentucky does not have any scheduling framework at its disposal.
"If these vaccination trends continue, it will spell trouble for our most vulnerable communities, which need extra support due to their susceptibility to a range of health-related, socioeconomic, and structural problems," said Dr. Sema Sgaier, Surgo Ventures Co-Founder and CEO, in a statement.
With a new administration, the federal government is poised to get more involved in the process. President Joe Biden has vowed to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office. His plan includes using federal funds to create new community vaccination centers across the country, as well as offer mobile vaccination clinics and provider partnerships to reach under-served urban areas and rural communities. In addition, President Biden has said he will make vaccines available in pharmacies and increase the capacity at chain and independent pharmacies across the nation.
Nevertheless, appropriate IT infrastructure remains one of the most important pieces of the complex puzzle and is crucial to ensuring that the vaccine is distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible.