Who is ready for a COVID-19 vaccine that is 70% effective? Or perhaps 95%? As the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines, to name a few, are offering hope to many while others question the risks, challenges for our health system’s readiness now become more real and imminent.
With immunization and treatment as the exit strategies for the COVID-19 pandemic, the rollout tactics are another story. How to administer these vaccines — and to whom among the billions of people — needs an innovative approach. People are asking when? And what priority tier am I on, and why or why not? And where can I get it? Fast, easy, accessible, interactive communication is key for global population management. And to have any chance of success, that communication needs to be scalable and automated, yet personal and engaging.
In addition to the logistical challenges to delivering hundreds of millions of doses, a prime issue is that of consent: How do you ensure informed decision-making and informed consent for vaccination? Patient education should precede any decision about vaccination. And that happens through patient engagement.
Pfizer and BioNTech, as an example, recently announced the promising preliminary result of the first 94 cases of COVID-19 in the trial showing its vaccine to be more than 90% effective. They used previously unproven messenger-RNA (mRNA) technology, which, according to BBC Health, is an experimental approach that “involves injecting part of the virus's genetic code into the body, in order to train the immune system. Once inside the body, this starts making viral proteins to train the body. This is a completely new technique.”
In a joint press release, Pfizer and BioNTech said they're “continuing to accumulate safety data and currently estimate that a median of two months of safety data following the second (and final) dose to the vaccine candidates — the amount of safety data specified by the FDA in its guidance for potential Emergency Use Authorization — will be available by the third week of November.”
Bloomberg has reported that in the U.K. “approval is said to be possible as early as this coming week... and British doctors have been put on standby for a possible rollout before Christmas.” BBC Health estimated that “60% to 70% of the global population need to be immune to the virus in order to stop it [from] spreading easily (known as herd immunity) — in other words, billions of people, even if the vaccine works perfectly.”
Alyson Kelvin (@akelvinlab), an assistant professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax and virologist at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology, said a good strategy is needed to get the vaccine out. Any rollout strategy needs data to have a good understanding of how to deploy a potential vaccine. Though the CDC and Operation Warp Speed have provided guidance, it will be challenging to determine the groups to which the vaccine will be given first and to know which vaccine is the most effective before data is gleaned post-vaccination.
"The rollout is going to be the most difficult part of this vaccine and that's the part I think everyone is starting to think of today," Dr. Zain Chagla (@zchagla), an infectious diseases specialist at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario, was quoted as saying in the same article.
A cloud-based platform for population management for vaccination can be that innovative strategy needed to support any rollout strategy. Through real-time patient engagement, data can be quickly generated to help identify the at-risk populations needing to be immunized first. And this can be done remotely through instantaneous communication anywhere, anytime, and on any device without the need for an app, however an individual chooses.
As reported by NPR, doctors, nurses, and their support personnel may get the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. As per the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the committee that develops evidence-based immunization guidelines for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first group of front-liners could "include those persons that are delivering food, or maintenance people that could come in contact with them, so they can protect themselves and patients from the virus and stay healthy to keep the U.S. health care system running.”
ACIP’s recommendation on how a COVID-19 vaccine should be used and who should get the first shots will be finalized after the vaccine is approved, according to the same report.
“Beyond health care workers, three additional groups are considered by ACIP to be especially vulnerable to COVID-19, based on their exposure or susceptibility to the virus: essential workers, people age 65 and older, and anyone with underlying medical conditions associated with getting seriously ill from COVID-19,” NPR reported.
The rollout strategy for the vaccine will differ from one patient group to another. But individuals in each group must be educated so they can give their informed consent to be vaccinated.
Before the vaccine can be made available, regulators must first approve it. Then, who will receive it first and when must be determined. And before the vaccine is injected, each patient needs to be educated.
A rapid and scalable population outreach adjunct to vaccine management can support the patient education component of the rollout strategy to facilitate informed decisions and collect consent and waivers for the vaccination. A solution that provides patient education digitally is covered by LifeWIRE’s COVID-19 Self-Isolation Management Program (COVID19-SIP), used for individuals who have tested positive or been near someone who tested positive.
The vaccination program can reach out, engage, and educate patient populations identified for vaccine administration. It can prepare and guide them through understanding the process, knowing their status, receiving the vaccine, and monitoring for after-care. In this single patient engagement platform, management of different patient groups for symptom-tracking, self-isolation or quarantine, and vaccine administration can be done.
Candidates for vaccination can be identified from among the populations being managed in the COVID19-SIP platform, especially those who belong to at-risk groups but tested negative.
Dr. Vera Etches (@VeraEtches), Ottawa's medical officer of health, has urged people to keep following COVID-19 prevention protocols. She says “loosening those measures too early would lead to a rapid rise in cases.”
Let's get ahead of the rollout. Let's engage every single individual, on the device of their choosing, to educate and prepare, to empower, to "proactive-ate" them. Each person will feel more ready, more confident. Empowerment is contagious. #BeLifeWIREd