COVID-19 Vaccination Registration Continues to Plague States

With the failure the CDC’s software designed to centralize COVID-19 vaccinations, states have resorted to other methods. New York and New Jersey are, perhaps, the most adversely affected.

Last month, we discussed why it is important for software research and development to be done properly. One of the examples we used was the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccination software system that was supposed to centralize the country’s data and streamline the vaccination process. That $44 million spent by the CDC has essentially been for nothing, as states resorted to finding other avenues for their citizens. No state is unaffected by this problem, but the situations in New York and New Jersey are, perhaps, the most chaotic.

Let’s start with New York. On March 1, a report on New York City vaccinations indicated that 42% of the shots given at Javits Center were administered to non-residents. The Aqueduct Racetrack vaccination site was no better, over 75% of their shots were given to non-city residents. Both of those are so-called “mega-vaccination sites,” which have been set up to increase the number of vaccinations administered daily. Many states have sites such as these, something New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is not a fan of. “Unless they are targeted properly, these big sites don’t help disparity,” he said. “I want to be clear, in terms of New York City, these sites do not perform what we hoped to see.”

According to the Mayor, though, it’s not all bad. On February 27, the city set a new vaccination record by administering shots to 76,000 people in a single day. Seeing this record, de Blasio reiterated his promise to have five million New Yorkers vaccinated by June. “That goal is in reach. We have everything we need, except the supply.” That statement begs one to think, though, if you don’t have the supply, how do you plan to inoculate so many people? But that’s a topic for a different expert, we’re going to stick with what we know.

Which brings us to the crux of what we know: software research and development. New York’s problem is an issue with identification, the population is huge, but it’s clear that something needs to change. In New Jersey, though, the issue is very different. When the CDC software failed to do what it was supposed to do, states were left to fend for themselves. Many states created their own vaccination registration process, something streamlined for the entire state. But not New Jersey. New Jersey left it to county and hospital-operated sites. The result has been nothing less than chaotic.

Because there are so many vaccination sites, with more being added, it means people struggle to know where to go first. Some sites are bogged down and you can’t make an appointment, phone lines are packed with hours-long hold times. Some people are even landing multiple appointments because they’re trying different places (which they should), but they need to remember to cancel the one(s) they don’t plan on attending. Open those slots back up for others. Perhaps the worst issue we have seen, though, was an instance through a Walgreens portal. They had 40 appointments for second-dose shots only. Why is this an issue? Because the shots that require two doses have paired appointments. Both shots should be administered by the same site, so why are there second-dose only appointments at all? This should not be possible, and it begs the question of where did these doses come from and who were they supposed to go to? What is happening to those unclaimed doses?

These two examples alone, never mind the multitudes of problems happening in other states, really show why development matters. One thing people and businesses need to remember is that it’s software RESEARCH and development, the research part often gets forgotten. Research isn’t just for market fit and usability, it’s about testing and security and configuration. Understanding how a website or application will be used by consumers is crucial to the development process. Software architects want nothing more than to build a product that others find useful. That’s what they do, they are problem solvers, inventors and builders. But if they don’t know how what they are building is going to be used, they cannot build the product effectively.

It’s so often that business leaders and government leaders want to push out the next big project as fast as possible. They want it done quick and dirty, get the product into the user’s hands and then fix the problems. Except when it has to be done at scale up front, you end up with the fiascos faced by each state amid the coronavirus pandemic. Do it right the first time, even if it takes longer. You won’t be sorry!

About the Author

Pieter VanIperen, Managing Partner of PWV Consultants, leads a boutique group of industry leaders and influencers from the digital tech, security and design industries that acts as trusted technical partners for many Fortune 500 companies, high-visibility startups, universities, defense agencies, and NGOs. He is a 20-year software engineering veteran, who founded or co-founder several companies. He acts as a trusted advisor and mentor to numerous early stage startups, and has held the titles of software and software security executive, consultant and professor. His expert consulting and advisory work spans several industries in finance, media, medical tech, and defense contracting. Has also authored the highly influential precursor HAZL (jADE) programming language.

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