AARP Iowa, on behalf of its 360,000 members and Iowans of all ages, is calling on state leaders to implement a sensible statewide COVID Vaccination Plan that includes a centralized, user-friendly vaccination appointment registration system accessible via a single web site and coordinated by a phone registration system answered by live, trained staff.
“The fragmented vaccine rollout that Iowans have experienced for the last two months has been confusing and frustrating for many trying to get an appointment,” said Brad Anderson, AARP Iowa State Director. “The current 99-county approach is a prescription for redundancies, as duplicate individual registrations could lead to missed appointments and wasted vaccines. The clock is ticking and it’s become clear we’d all benefit from a simple, statewide system that works for those with or without access to a computer.”
In a letter sent to Governor Kim Reynolds, AARP Iowa called for immediate action and outlined the following reasoning and criteria. Copy of the letter can be found here.
A Centralized, Equitable, Accessible, User-Friendly, Vaccination Appointment System - All consumers must have access to a one-stop means of scheduling a vaccination. This is key to ensuring transparency and effective vaccine distribution and program management. Whether it is building on the infrastructure of Iowa’s AAAs and/or Iowa’s 211 system, critical elements of any system must include the elements below.
- A simple one-stop appointment information and sign-up website requiring only minimum personal information
- A centralized, well-staffed, toll-free phone number to ensure all citizens are able to find and register for vaccination appointments by telephone
- A variety of languages available to those seeking vaccination appointments
- Options for homebound individuals that brings the vaccine to them i.e. mobile clinics aligned with the prioritization tiered approach
- An effective appointment confirmation system is also critical – and that appointments made by phone are confirmed by phone
- An effective system for scheduling a second dose of the vaccine, as required
- A processes to identify any accessibility issues that may need to be addressed
Push notifications to those eligible for shots - State and local governments should also pro-actively reach out to those eligible for the vaccines.
- Multi-channel: The outreach should include a wide range of communications channels, including direct mail, earned media, paid media, telephone, social media, email, in-person, and mobile clinics if available.
- Outbound calls: Caller ID should specify official government name (e.g. “State Health Department”) so recipients don’t think it is a scam.
- Callers should identify themselves, provide a callback # for verification purposes, and note that the vaccine is free.
- Enlist trusted partners: Outreach shouldn’t come solely from a government office. It should be multi-faceted and include trusted partners in the community, such as doctors, pharmacies, health clinics, etc.
- Be persistent: The outreach should continue to resolution, which can either be someone registering for vaccination or declaring that they won’t. There should be a reasonable number of attempts before outreach is suspended.
Transparency of Data and Plans - Iowans deserve a weekly, if not daily, update on all data available around the COVID 19 pandemic and the vaccination efforts in Iowa. A centralized appointment system is key to transparency and information needed to adjust and improve any vaccination efforts. The minimum data Iowa citizens should be updated on must include but not be limited to:
- Vaccination appointment system plans, challenges, and successes
- List of Team Members and Vendors Developing and Managing Vaccination Program in IA
- An abundance of data that provides a dashboard for measuring vaccination progress as well as detailed data that tracks registration (appointments made, shots delivered, variances recorded) by zip code, age and race, as well website and phone center performance data (including average caller wait times and average wait times at distribution sites)
Our state’s vaccination rollout has been problematic, with a scrapped proposal for Microsoft-created statewide call coordination and referrals made to understaffed Iowa Area Agencies on Aging (AAA’s) and 211. Meanwhile, AARP Iowa has been inundated by concerns that the current plan, involving multiple phone numbers and websites, has led to confusion, frustration and fear. A plan that gets this right is past due.