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While the Federal Government is committed to executing a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the distribution of vaccines falls individually on state and local government support. In our blog series on the vaccine rollout, Booz Allen’s Chief Medical Officer Kevin Vigilante and our health experts examine best practices and lessons learned from across the health landscape, including potential strategies and approaches that could help state and local governments improve vaccination rollouts.
Scheduling an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine has been a frustrating and confusing process for millions of Americans, no matter where they live. The Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) was designed to provide a federally funded, centralized system for vaccine clinic management, including scheduling, inventory, and reporting. But VAMS has been plagued with multiple problems including unintended appointment cancellations, a lack of reliability, and usability challenges for both administrators and registrants. As a result, many state and local governments have simply abandoned it.
In a scramble to find alternatives, state and local health departments are opting for homegrown or private solutions, and patchworks of distributed scheduling systems. In many states, where there may be some centralized scheduling for the state-run clinic sites, private providers each maintain their own separate scheduling systems and processes on their own websites with different clinic instructions, screens, and data collection fields.
This decentralization has caused significant frustration, confusion, and wasted time among those trying to schedule vaccinations. It leads to greater vaccine waste and fraud, exacerbates distribution challenges, and increases costs. In addition, the current complexity of appointment scheduling processes raises serious equity concerns resulting from disparities in technology access and proficiency, language barriers, and access to technical assistance.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of February 7, 2021, almost 60 million vaccine doses had been distributed while only about 41 million had been administered. Reports continue to roll in of the challenges of scheduling an appointment in one area while vaccine appointments go unused in another area.
Centralizing appointment scheduling should be a top priority as states and local health departments begin to expand vaccine access. A centralized scheduling system enables the efficient “matching up” of supply and demand and simplifies the scheduling process for everyone involved. The process should be simple, straightforward, and user friendly. Residents should be able to:
With the current race of vaccine versus virus, we should call on the best expertise and technology resources from both commercial and government organizations. Working together, they could quickly mobilize to offer states and local health departments the centralized scheduling solution(s) and support structures that would optimize the process, ultimately getting more vaccines more quickly into people’s arms.
Want to stay updated on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout? Check back here as we continue to share insights. And feel free to share this post with those you care about.