Originally published in RouteFifty

The long-awaited Covid-19 vaccine has arrived. As of now, three pharmaceutical companies–Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca–have announced that their vaccines are anywhere from 70 and 95% effective. And with the approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the U.S. is now embarking on the largest vaccination distribution campaign in history. As it did for keeping individuals safe throughout the pandemic, technology and data will need to be leveraged in order to ensure distribution plans are on track and successful. But in this unprecedented time, state and local governments are struggling to understand what technology is actually needed to create a safe and efficient distribution pipeline. They also need to understand what data is necessary to collect and how to keep it safe. And all of these solutions need to be implemented in a timely manner so that state and local governments can quickly and safely distribute the vaccine.

Third-Party Vendor Considerations

There are major time constraints for getting the infrastructure in place to support the vaccine distribution. This means that health care and government organizations will need to rely on existing technology infrastructure and solutions instead of building out their own platforms. Similarly, this means working with existing technology vendors through RFP processes known to take weeks or months to get new projects approved. In our current situation, speed is pivotal. Finding a balance between speed and process is extremely important at this time. Governments should consider ways to avoid lengthy RFPs so that the technology is in place for the distribution. This could mean entering a pilot program agreement or looking at direct sales–anything that will allow the technology to be implemented in a timely fashion. Consider trusted vendors that have experience working with government organizations and understand the security requirements.

Technology Implementation

The technology that governments choose to implement needs to be able to manage the flow of traffic and vaccine appointments in health care facilities. The health care system is already overwhelmed with patients sick from Covid-19. Adding an onslaught of patients needing vaccines to busy hospitals that are already under strain could cause many issues. Vaccine distribution needs to consider how to keep everyone safe by managing the flow of traffic in these facilities. Integrating appointment management solutions where patients can wait at a safe distance will help keep clinics safe and running smoothly during the distribution phase. It will also help them manage the distribution of the vaccines alongside the need of other healthcare services. 

Data Collection

With so many different distribution phases and vaccines, governments will need to collect patient data to keep track of who has been vaccinated, who needs a booster shot if receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and who still needs the vaccine. This will be critical information when it comes to ordering vaccine doses and moving through each phase, but also to monitor the needs of healthcare providers.

State and local governments need to track the number of people in each phase of the distribution plan to ensure that they are properly supporting the healthcare industry. They also need to track who will be receiving each vaccine, as the requirements are different between the shots created by the different companies. If necessary, they need to have plans in place that determine the priority of health care. If the industry is short staffed or lacking resources, what services will be prioritized?

Health care data is extremely confidential, which means that it’s at a higher risk for security breaches and data hacks. Although this data will be important to collect, it will be equally important to keep it secure and encrypted to avoid potential breaches. When working with third-party vendors, it’s crucial that state and local governments understand what data is being collected, the practices in place to keep the data safe and protected from potential breaches.  Governments should have a data security plan established and ensure that any third-party vendors or industries that are collecting important personal data are following these protocols.

Next Steps for Governments

The Covid vaccination process is expected to last for an extended period of time and the end of the pandemic is still far from reality, despite the hope that the vaccines bring. Governments need to prepare quickly for the start of the distribution process, yet they also need to implement solutions that will work long-term. Technology and data collection will prove to be the backbone of any good distribution plan, as it will allow for governments to remain organized and keep citizens safe.