It seems to me that the vaccine distribution program could have, and should have, been run a lot better. It has been suggested that the process would be better served if it were turned over to an Army quartermaster.
Apparently each provider is left to set their own system. Some are trying to follow the CDC rules, others are, well, looser.
There are numerous reports of people baffled at trying to get information on vaccine availability and how to get an appointment. Some providers say they are keeping lists. Yet I have not heard of anyone being called from those lists. Other providers say call back. Others cannot seem to answer the phone. Some direct you to online registration, yet ignore the registration when the vaccine arrives as word goes out to family and friends that a certain provider has a supply.
We keep running into people who have been vaccinated that clearly do not fit any of the announced priority profiles.
“We just called up and they said come on down,” said one. Another said, “We had to stand in line for four hours but we got it.”
What the heck?
While I cannot imagine an Army quartermaster would do worse, I don’t see why that is necessary nor why figuring this out has been so difficult. It is not like approved providers didn’t know this was coming.
Providers could easily get a handle on this by setting up an appointment system that prioritizes vaccine delivery for those most at risk. Here’s how it should work:
1. Get a UTEP IT student to create a database populated by a simple interface to schedule appointments. The page could be filled in by anyone with a computer – or, someone staffing a call bank to assist the elderly who don’t use computers.
2. “Oh,” the vaccine provider might say, “we don’t have the staff to run a phone bank. We can’t handle the calls we get now.” We know that but here’s a thought: Appeal to El Paso Rotarians and Lions clubs. I’ll bet you would quickly have 200 volunteers eager to work any shift needed to run the phones and help people by filling out the interface page.
3. That page should capture basic contact information as well as a checklist of common health issues that should move an applicant forward in the computer appointment queue – age, hypertension, asthma, compromised immune system to name a few and whatever else that falls into “underlying health issues.”
4. The database would sort and rank those applications based on an individual’s risk and providers could pull from the top of the list confident they were addressing the people most in need.
5. NOTE: The page needs to contain a BIG warning that when called for an appointment, documentation for the claimed health issue must be provided. Those who show up with unsupported claims should be denied.
6. This will create occasional appointment no-shows. So the appointment schedule needs to run a little overbooked with eligible standbys who could quickly fill the spot – just like an airline. Eligible standbys who couldn’t get vaccinated could move up the next day.
7. And wouldn’t it be great if those who register receive a computer generated acknowledgment. For computer illiterates, a phone call would be appreciated.
So why is this so complicated?