Maryland, Virginia, and California are examples of states that have provided or will provide their residents with digital tools through which they can be informed of their eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine. Through these digital tools, residents can opt to be notified of updates and their turn via text or email message. Maryland’s preregistration process was considered innovative by a policy expert.
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- Maryland has a preregistration plan that was described as innovative by Katie Greene, “a visiting policy associate at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy.”
- According to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, Maryland residents will be requested to preregister for the COVID-19 vaccine through MarylandVax.org, a website that is linked to PrepMod, one of the state’s immunization information systems.
- PrepMod is Maryland’s existing system for online clinic management and appointment scheduling. Developed in the state, it was previously used by the state’s local health departments for mass vaccination events and school-located clinics.
- The purpose of the preregistration was for the Maryland Department of Health to have a clear idea of how many people wish to be vaccinated, which residents should receive vaccination reminders and updates on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts, which demographic groups should be prioritized, and whether communication efforts are working as intended.
- Based on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, residents will be encouraged to preregister via a media campaign involving paid media, earned media, and social media. Priority facilities and organizations such as health care and long-term care facilities will also be contacted so they can request staff and residents to preregister.
- During preregistration, residents will be asked to provide demographic information such as age, comorbidities, ethnicity, occupation, race, and zip code.
- Preregistered residents who are already eligible for the vaccine will be informed through a text or email message to set a vaccination appointment at a closed or private vaccination clinic via PrepMod.
- The Maryland government did not say anything about how often it will engage or communicate to residents. It only shared that PrepMod can be used to send reminders for any necessary second dose and that statewide communications and messaging will focus on the following topics: the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, the vaccination of priority groups, and the vaccination of the general population.
- On January 12, 2021, the Virginia Department of Health announced that it has rolled out a new online tool that Virginians can use to ascertain if they are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and when they are likely to be inoculated.
- The new online tool will prove handy to residents who are wondering when they can get vaccinated.
- According to Governor Ralph Northam, filling out the online form takes no more than two minutes.
- On the first page, residents will be asked to choose from a dropdown the locality or county they live in. Then on the second page, they will be asked if they live or work in any of the listed types of long-term care facilities.
- On the third page, they will be asked if they are any of the listed types of healthcare workers, and on the fourth page, they will be asked if they work or volunteer as any of the listed occupations.
- On the fifth page, they will be asked if they currently live in “a correctional facility, homeless shelter or migrant labor camp.,” and on the sixth page, they will be asked to choose their age group.
- On the seventh page, they will be asked if they have any of the listed medical conditions.
- Finally, on the eight page, they will be advised of the vaccination phase they belong to. On this page, they will be asked to provide their first name, last name, email address, and group (within the phase). They can provide their phone number if they want to.
- The Virginia Department of Health will contact them once their vaccination phase begins to confirm eligibility and plan the administration of the vaccine.
- Residents will also be provided instructions on how to register for their vaccination appointments.
- Immediately after federal officials requested states to speed up their vaccine distribution, California state officials revealed that they will soon be launching a new system that will notify Californians when they are eligible for the vaccine. They expect initial features to be rolled out next week.
- Initial features will let Californians know if they are already eligible to be inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine.
- If they are not yet eligible, they will be given the option to sign up for a text or email notification that will inform them if it is already their turn to receive the vaccine.
- The second phase of the rollout will see the introduction of features that will facilitate the organization of mass or community vaccination events and the scheduling of vaccination appointments for these events.
- Nothing was said about how often the state government will communicate or engage with its residents.
A number of strategies were employed in finding examples of innovative or non-traditional ways in which states in the United States are engaging their residents to be vaccinated or informing them that they are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations. For example, a press search for news articles about innovations and best practices was conducted. The COVID-19 vaccination plans of various states, especially those leading in terms of vaccination rates, were also examined.
Finding innovative or non-traditional practices proved tricky. There is hardly any source where a communication or engagement plan was described as innovative or non-traditional. Only Maryland’s preregistration approach was described as innovative. Since several states indicated in their COVID-19 vaccination plans that they intend to rely on traditional media, conferences, community outreach, text campaigns, and email campaigns, we considered states introducing digital tools or apps to be innovative or non-traditional.