Five actions that states should take in their COVID-19 vaccination programs are relying on local/state systems and support, use of technology, enrolling physicians as providers and advocates, opening up mega-sites, and the use of public awareness campaigns. More details can be found below.
1: Opting out of the Federal Government’s Vaccination Programs (Reliance on Local/State Systems and Support)
- Bill Galston, Chair and Senior Fellow of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution which is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington D.C., says that local support and systems within states are a contributor towards the success of vaccination programs.
- West Virginia was the only state that opted out of the vaccination distribution partnership between two national pharmacy chains (Walmart and CVS) and the federal government and this has created a large implementation gap. The national program relies on the two pharmacy chains to vaccinate residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
- West Virginia, however, relied on a network of independent pharmacies. The advantage is that these pharmacies serve remote rural areas, large population centers, and small towns. Most already have existing relationships with local nursing homes and can access “extensive information about the facilities and their residents.” Most importantly, the existing trust between individual patients and local pharmacy staff helped overcome vaccine aversion in the county.
- The state support was also seen through the deployment of the state’s National Guard to oversee other agencies in vaccination efforts and to transport the doses. This has been contrasted to some national programs that are progressing slowly.
- By the end of December 2020, West Virginia had vaccinated all its nursing home residents and was the first state to achieve this.
2: Use of Technology (Vaccination Scheduling Tools)
- Vaccination scheduling tools are helping states identify and determine prospective recipients of the vaccine, schedule, and direct them to appropriate stations.
- These states are benefiting a lot from the use of technology for the “allocation and tracking” of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- The spokesperson of South Dakota’s Department of Health said that the use of such tools will enhance efficiency and transparency. States need to identify such resources within their departments and direct them towards their COVID-19 vaccination programs.
- SD is one of the leading states in vaccination efforts and individuals use an interactive map to contact appropriate providers. The providers are also using a variety of ways to sign people up for the vaccine such as SurveyMonkey.
3: Enrolling Physicians as Providers and Advocates
- James Blumenstock, senior vice president for pandemic response and recovery at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials said that once state physicians speak up and show the people that they are accepting the vaccine, public trust will be enhanced.
- The planning process at the state level should enroll as many providers as possible.
- This means that if physicians are not enrolled, they should be so that they can participate as vaccine providers and advocates.
- According to James, physicians must do everything they can to get the vaccine, talk about how great it is, and its effectiveness.
4: Opening up Mega-Sites
- Mega-sites are vaccination clinics that are designed to vaccinate “thousands of people each day.” There is a need for mass vaccination clinics in mall parking lots, high school gymnasiums, and convention centers in each state in America.
- Jason Schwartz, a health policy professor at Yale University, stated that these sites are essential as the number of people eligible for vaccinations expands. Since hospitals are likely overstretched taking care of patients and state governments do not have the money to implement the vaccination programs on their own, they need to hire temporary workers and seek federal support. This will enable them to pay for the supplies and space to support these mega-sites.
- New Jersey achieved this by starting up mega-sites as early as the first week of January 2021 and by January 23rd, there were six sites that had “successfully vaccinated 500,222 residents in a little more than a month.”
5: Public Awareness Campaigns
- To combat misinformation and reassure the public that vaccines are effective and safe, states need to introduce comprehensive public awareness campaigns. This can be done alongside national efforts and the $50 million ad campaign by the Ad Council to “get the word out.”
- This was stated by Dr. Kelly Moore, deputy director of the nonprofit advocacy group the Immunization Action Coalition as she emphasized that states need vaccine confidence outreach teams that are provided with resources to access communities and educate people. These teams will also answer questions and communicate to the public on how to receive the vaccine in their specific state.
- These efforts should be state-specific since each state has a different distribution plan.