Vaccine Management Podcast Episode 3 - Practical approaches to close the vaccine communication gap
Vaccine Management: Closing the Gap
Nick: Hello, I am Nick Demetriades. Thank you for joining us in the third episode of our podcast – Vaccine Management – Closing the Gap.
In this podcast, we interview Dr. Suman De on the state of vaccination efforts, the challenges that governments are facing, and what should they do get the vaccines into the arms of people quickly and safely.
Welcome, Dr. Suman.
Suman: Thanks for having me again, Nick.
Nick: It’s good to talk to you again. Great news about the approval of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine wouldn’t you say?
Suman: It’s a welcome news indeed, Nick. The new vaccine will address supply issues that we have been facing and make it easier for state and local governments to vaccinate more people, more quickly. We should expect things to move faster.
Nick: So, in our last two episodes we discussed gaps in registration, scheduling and data integration. What’s the situation this week? Will the addition of this new Johnson & Johnson vaccine address these issues?
Suman: I am afraid the issues that we discussed last week persist. The new vaccine, with its different handling and protocol for dosage administration and requirements may complicate these existing issues.
But today, I wanted to discuss something more fundamental. An issue that’s been overlooked by state and local governments - that’s around vaccine communication or the gaps therein.
There are multiple communication stages across the vaccine management cycle.
- One is the information and awareness about COVID19 vaccines that is required by everyone
- The second is around tailored messaging and the FAQs to help increase knowledge about vaccines, like who should take them, who shouldn’t, what is the scientific information they should be aware about, etc.
- The third is around the information about eligibility, when is the timing of vaccination, how will people be pre-screened, and general help around the entire scheduling and registration process
- Lastly, the post vaccination related information like how to report adverse reactions, reminders for subsequent doses, and when and how will we have information about the next dose, what all is permissible after the vaccine and what’s not.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been consistent communication and distribution of culturally sensitive information across any of these stages. People have not been able to access the right information through the right channels at the right time that they are most comfortable with. And, that creates serious problems with respect to citizen engagement in this vaccination drive.
Nick: You make a lot of good points Dr. and you are right, the decentralized approach to vaccination, the constantly changing policy guidelines on eligibility and scheduling prioritization, and misinformation about vaccines have created a lot of confusion among people. What are some of the communication related challenges you’ve seen people having?
Suman: We have all read how the elderly, who are mostly sitting on the other side of the digital divide, are unable to go online to access information or schedule their shot in the web portal.
It’s not only the elderly. All people, as we go in phase 2 and phase 3, are facing similar issues. From my experience, a teacher with the local Connecticut district school was frustrated by her state’s scheduling system. Despite being eligible for the vaccine, it was impossible for her to find out when she could get an appointment. There was no online support. Calls to the state’s contact center went unanswered. It was completely unmanned, it seems. And, no-one called back despite there being a feature to receive a call back if requested.
She eventually reached a person over the phone, but even that didn’t help. The person was unsuccessful in figuring out how she could navigate the VAMS system to self-book her appointments. Another big issue was trying to get answers to basic questions like – which vaccine can she get scheduled for- Pfizer or Moderna or the new J&J? And, with all the information that she’ll enter into the portal, how will they keep her personal data safe? How safe is it for her to consider the new J&J vaccine over the Moderna or Pfizer ones? Whether it’ll be safe to get a vaccine if she had a tetanus shot a week before? She was curious to know if the vaccine aggravates the side effects she had from the tetanus shot or will it lead to new side-effects?
No information like this exists on any portal and the person over the phone kept suggesting that she contact her PCP.
Gaps like these reduce public trust and dis-engages people from the program. It’s no surprise that one-third of the Americans still say they don’t want the vaccine or are undecided. They need help and they need to be communicated and advocated more effectively than what we are doing today.
Nick: I can’t say that I disagree with you, Dr. I know exactly what you are talking about. I live in Connecticut and my wife works in the school system locally. And, she has been frustrated over many attempts to go through VAMS and schedule a time. Too many bumps in the road, too many unanswered questions, scheduling conflicts, cancellations, re-setting appointments. It has all been upsetting for her, and I know for all her colleagues that work in the school system as well. That brings me to the question of how do you think state and local governments can navigate these challenges better?
Suman: Governments should proactively engage citizens via easy communication channels like text messaging, Whatsapp, Instagram or Facebook. On top of that, they can bring robocalls, they can enrich their portals and they can send mailers to remind people about their vaccination appointments, provide additional details in a granular level, send urgent updates and more.
This will allow them to bring down the volume of inbound calls and engage citizens more effectively with information related to vaccine distribution, eligibility, appointment availability, the basic knowledge about vaccine products, and what are certain dos & don’ts etc.
They should implement solutions that enable them to publish clearly written policies and FAQs in multiple languages. The solution should be supported by advanced technology capabilities like online chats and intelligent virtual assistants that can answer basic questions.
The virtual assistants should be made intelligent enough to escalate unanswered queries to a human-staffed call center. The call centers should have trained personnel with credentials in public health communications. They should have knowledge about the privacy policies, about the vaccines, about the protocols and have the technical expertise to help citizens quickly navigate the vaccination systems. And, if the call center agencies also get stuck, they should have an option to engage the relevant experts, in real-time, to resolve a person’s query.
That’s where you bring a personal satisfaction and increase the level of engagement. A clear-cut, uncomplicated service experience will promote trust in the vaccination program. Improved processes and technologies for communication and customer service will mitigate potential reputational damage and address concerns about the equitable distribution of vaccines.
Nick: You know Dr. you are right. Trust and clear communication are a must for any successful program to move forward. I do have one final question if I could, Dr. how would solution like the Infosys Vaccine Management help in closing the vaccination communication gap?
Dr. Suman: We learned about these communications-related lessons through our work assisting a state government with their Covid testing, contact tracing, and contact center operations. The Infosys Vaccine Management solution incorporates all of these lessons as best practices.
The solution’s citizen portal is intuitively designed, its self-service driven, is compliant with accessibility standards and provides timely, accurate, consistent, and up to date information.
We have leveraged WONGDOODY, a leading design agency and an Infosys subsidiary, who helped us develop a best-in-class human centric design for the solution. They can also help governments develop the communication plan that’s right and more targeted for their audience.
The solution offers omnichannel capability to facilitate seamless communication around distribution and scheduling among the public and the program stakeholders.
Our solution is supported by responsive customer service agents who are familiar with public health communication nuances, information about the vaccines and other related public health information. They can immediately reduce the friction citizens experience related to vaccination and reduce the pressure on program administrators.
At the end of the day — effective communication is the only mechanism to build trust among the citizens. It will drive citizen engagement and increase vaccine uptake to help reach the desired herd immunity faster. And, Infosys Vaccine Management solution has the necessary capabilities to help governments with this mission-critical initiative.
Nick: Thank you Dr., that was a lot of good information for us today. Thank you for joining us today Dr. Suman and for sharing your insights.
And, thank you, our listeners.
Hope you found the discussion interesting. Stay tuned as we cover the state of COVID19 vaccination efforts & provide practical insights for states to execute their COVID19 vaccination program safely & effectively.
If you have any feedback or would like us to cover any specific areas, please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bye for now.