COVID-19 Vaccine Success Requires Clarity, Consistency and Confidence

This is one of four reports from the December Brazda Breakfast Briefing. Click here for a feed of reports from these events

With two COVID-19 vaccines already being put in arms around the country and more expected early next year, healthcare providers must successfully deploy millions of doses of the vaccines to end the coronavirus pandemic. However, just as important as the logistics of getting this done, the public must be willing to get the vaccine in large enough numbers to control the spread of the disease.

Fortunately, healthcare providers are prepared to manage the vaccination effort and build public confidence in the science behind the vaccines. At the Brazda Breakfast briefing on December 15, an event sponsored by APCO and hosted by our partner, The Alliance for Health Policy, Dr. Snehal Gandhi broke down exactly how his medical team approached vaccination logistics and contingency plans for ensuring operations continue smoothly.

Dr. Gandhi, who serves as Medical Director of Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey, explained that digital solutions are crucial for making the vaccination process as easy as possible to lower the barrier for people hesitant to get vaccinated. Cooper University integrated vaccination registration into its existing online portal so that patients could instantly sign up for appointments to get their shots with their paperwork completed beforehand on the hospital’s website or app. Because the digital registration is automatically linked to patients’ phone numbers and email addresses, doctors can easily share calendar invitations to make sure patients know when to arrive, link to important disclosure information and follow up with messages to record any vaccine side effects.

A major challenge in getting patients vaccinated is that the vaccine options currently allowed by the FDA both require two doses spaced several weeks apart. To minimize the risk of patients not getting their second dose as scheduled, Dr. Gandhi and his team framed signing up for a COVID-19 vaccine like “purchasing a round trip airline ticket.” When you sign up for your first shot, the digital portal automatically asks you to schedule a second appointment 21 days later and prompts you with digital nudges and reminders to show up when scheduled.

Hospitals also needed to establish systems that minimize risks to their staff and project confidence to the public and their patients. At Cooper University Medical, hospital administrators are staggering vaccination in several rounds to guarantee that its hospitals always have enough staff available in case of adverse side effects from a vaccine. Doctors and other healthcare workers at the hospitals were so excited about the vaccines that several of them posted pictures of the appointment confirmations and themselves getting vaccinated to social media, sparking significant enthusiasm from the local community and social media users around the country. Healthcare workers on social media demystified the process of getting vaccinated and turned hesitancy about vaccines to excitement and confidence.

Dr. Gandhi emphasized that healthcare providers are ready to vaccinate the public. Making the process as clear, consistent and transparent as possible will ensure that the public is just as ready to receive the vaccine.

You can watch Dr. Gandhi’s comments and the full briefing here.