This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sponsored the National Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine, a three-day virtual event for stakeholders supporting COVID-19 vaccination. On the second day, there was a 90-minute town hall style session titled “Using Technology to Manage COVID-19 Vaccination” which brought together public health and industry leaders to discuss the use and challenges of information technology solutions in addressing the needs of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the US.
The panelists discussed many common challenges, from the difficulties in collecting accurate race/ethnicity data to inform public policy, to problems integrating with Immunization Information Systems (IIS), to the recognition that some problems that may manifest as information technology issues may be more fundamental social issues in the community. Most interesting, however, were the important lessons learned that were raised at the end of the session related to public health and its approach to COVID-19 data management:
- Don’t hide your problems if you want to get them solved; own them and share them.
- You need to employ continuous quality improvement in systems and data. The systems you start with will not likely be the ones you end up with so expect to have to change things along the way.
- Public health can’t go it alone – you need to engage with all types of stakeholders and work collectively.
- You need to think at least two to three months ahead at the problems you will likely face then and begin engineering solutions to these future problems now. You can’t afford to wait until those problems show up if they can be predicted.
- Flexibility is everything! You need to be able to adjust with changing requirements and realities on the ground.
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