It’s been a busy few months in Idaho, like in many states, as Covid-19 vaccine rollouts are addressed. On March 15, a few weeks ahead of schedule, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is ready to issue a second wave of vaccines to frontline workers. Looking to make up for a shortfall in early February, the IDHW has now secured vaccines for the 134,000 Idahoans in “Group 2.3” who work in food processing plants, grocery stores, and at the U.S. Postal Service.
And as more vaccines arrive, another wave could begin around April 1st. Qualification for “Group 3” has yet to be determined, but may be for other essential workers and individuals 16–64 years of age with high-risk medical conditions, according to the distribution timeline. This group could include as many as 470,000 Idahoans, pending vaccine availability.
To assist with this detailed rollout process, Idaho has launched covidvaccine.idaho.gov for Idahoans to register for the vaccine by adding their name and contact information to a database. Designed and deployed in just two weeks with help from the GovWebworks’ (GWW) team, vaccine providers are now able to contact Idahoans in the database to schedule appointments as vaccines become available.
Solving the distribution bottleneck
As Idaho has found, states are ultimately accountable for the vaccine distribution process, and overcoming bottlenecks can require innovation on the part of the state in order to be successful. Idaho had to think quickly, and come up with a viable solution.
In this spirit, Idaho devised the Covid-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System so people can sign up for a vaccine and connect with a provider who can supply it. Any Idahoan, or person employed in Idaho, can sign up as many people in a family as they like under the same email address. They can also indicate a preference for their primary care provider in the pre-registration process, but it is possible that another provider may take the appointment, depending on availability.
Provider organizations are invited to join the system by an email from the Idaho Immunization Program administrators. Vaccine providers can set up an account and query the database with parameters relating to age, health risk factors, and the state-defined eligibility grouping to create batches of registrants. They then contact these registrants to schedule a vaccine appointment.
The concept seems to be working. Within days after launch, 45,000 Idahoans had already registered, with about 71 providers logging into the system to claim as many as 66 batches of vaccination registrants.
“We are proud to work in an organization that could set up a registration system in just two weeks in order to make a direct impact on something that is impacting the entire country,” says John Gordon, GWW’s Director of Software Development. “The Governor of Idaho has celebrated the project, and the Director of the Department of Health and Welfare sent a personal email to every member of the team in appreciation.”
How it works
The secure website, run on Amazon GovCloud (AWS), is available 24 x 7 for the public, providers, public health districts, and administrators. Accessible through the Internet by browser, the tool is also optimized for any modern mobile device. The site scales for high-traffic to ensure uninterrupted service, and includes spam-attentive features and post-data-entry analysis.
Once names are added to the statewide ‘I want to be vaccinated’ list, matches between people requesting a Covid-19 vaccination with Idaho’s Immunization Registry (IRIS) occur once a day. No online public account is needed, validation is done through an email confirmation process. Email notifications are sent when someone is selected by a provider or if a request is pending too long.
Providers are able to assign a primary administrator who can assign password-protected access for their staff. Administrators can also track progress with reports, and public health districts can view and monitor public sign-ups and the providers as they pull names.
Getting the vaccine
Once a provider schedules someone for an appointment, all they need to do is show up to the designated location with proof of Idaho residency or proof they work in Idaho. There is no cost for the vaccination.
As detailed on the site, “All vaccines were purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars and will be given to the American people at no cost. Providers that participate in the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program contractually agree to administer a COVID-19 vaccine regardless of an individual’s ability to pay for the administration and regardless of their coverage status, and also may not seek any reimbursement, including through balance billing, from a vaccine recipient.”
“People without health insurance or whose insurance does not provide coverage of the vaccine administration cost can also receive COVID-19 vaccine for free. Providers administering the vaccine to people without health insurance or whose insurance does not provide coverage of the vaccine administration can request reimbursement through the Provider Relief Fund.”
The site also notes that those getting the vaccine should be prepared for mild to moderate reactions such as injection site pain or swelling, muscle pain, headaches, or mild to moderate fevers. Some symptoms may be more pronounced after the second vaccine.
States need to respond quickly during these complex times, and Idaho approached the need and took charge to launch the new site in less than two weeks.
“When DHW approached GWW about this initiative, we knew it was going to be a game changer for the people of Idaho so we mobilized our team of software engineers, designers, quality engineers, and other team members to take action right away,” says Sarah Crossman, GWW’s Director of User Experience. “Through daily meetings, rapid iteration on designs, our agile approach to development, and an engaged partner, we were able to meet this seemingly impossible deadline.”
The response has also been gratifying, with the site seeing immediate use by vaccine seekers in Idaho, some of whom were contacted to make an appointment for a vaccine the same day they registered.
- Contact us to set up a similar system in your state
- For information about COVID-19 response efforts in Idaho, visit coronavirus.idaho.gov
- For more about vaccines and how they work, visit the CDC
- KTVB7: Idaho launches new COVID-19 vaccine appointment system