Tracking Vaccine Distribution in 2021

The following is a guest article by Eric Paternoster, CEO of Infosys Public Services.

Public health agencies have embarked on an ambitious program. They must equitably distribute and safely administer enough COVID-19 vaccines to immunize at least 70% of the population to achieve herd immunity and enable the country to return to some semblance of normalcy. Unfortunately, the existing legacy and siloed immunization infrastructure is not up to the challenge. We are already seeing this play out as the registration and scheduling systems in many states are completely overwhelmed leading to vaccination rates well below target.

The existing immunization infrastructure was designed to support mass vaccination programs for conditions like the flu which cover 30% to 45% of the population and require a single dose. The coverage and dosing regimen for COVID-19 vaccines are twice that of the flu and they also differ on the administrative protocols based on the drug types being used. Hesitant and weary residents, unknown factors like adverse events and vaccine applicability, and extraordinarily cold storage requirements for at least one of the vaccines make the entire exercise even more challenging.

Failure to accurately track and distribute COVID-19 vaccines in a timely manner and manage their administration protocols could lead people to miss follow up doses. This can compromise the vaccine’s efficacy and impact a person’s immunity against the virus.

To overcome these challenges, agencies need to focus on four key capabilities:

  1. Demand planning – Identify residents to be immunized, track when and where they were immunized, and determine the due date for the next dose and forecast dosage requirements
  2. Constituent onboarding – Build scale to support mass registrations, ensure flexibility to manage changing guidelines, and provide customer support through different channels like web, support centers, virtual assistants to make constituent onboarding efficient and seamless
  3. Supply chain visibility – Track each vial of vaccines, inventory levels and compliance to specific cold chain requirements
  4. Adherence to administrative protocols – Monitor each vaccinated resident for dosage compliance and adverse reactions

For now, agencies are administering vaccines to a subset of the population including healthcare personnel, essential workers, senior citizens, and people in long-term care facilities. Soon, they’ll move to phases two and three that will cover the general population and utilize an expanded provider network. If COVID-19 testing experiences are an indication, this uptick may lead to massive system breakdowns. The capabilities listed above will become critical to avoid this scenario and deliver the COVID-19 vaccination program safely and effectively.

New digital vaccine administration platforms, like the Infosys Vaccine Management Solution (IVM), can help agencies build these capabilities quickly, streamline processes, accommodate evolving requirements, effectively track and share vaccine administration details, and monitor community-wide results.

In phases two and three, mass vaccination events may have to be conducted in gymnasiums, parking lots, or provider clinics. Modern vaccine administration systems like IVM can leverage a mobile-enabled “Clinic in a box” approach to streamline all the provider vaccine management operations, from front and mid-office tasks like communications, registration, scheduling, eligibility checks, managing vaccination records, and forecasting booster dose schedules to back-office tasks like monitoring the unique cold storage requirements of different vaccines, tracking supplies, and managing orders.

Advanced analytics capabilities of these platforms enable agencies to analyze differences in observed safety and efficacy levels of different vaccines on different sub-groups, generating relevant insights to make the program more effective.  And, HL7 and FHIR interoperability facilitate the sharing of these insights with different stakeholders in near-real time.

The challenges of COVID-19 immunization programs are immense. Addressing these challenges and ensuring that vaccines are administered to the right people, at the right time, and with the right support require a higher degree of program visibility, system scalability, and integration and collaboration between historically fragmented and siloed organizations. New digital solutions like the Infosys Vaccine Management Solution have been designed to address all of these requirements, enabling states and vaccinators to execute their ambitious COVID-19 vaccination program successfully.