Utilize professional event planners, crisis managers to assist with COVID-19 vaccination process

After about three hours of refreshing the browser, my dad was able to book an appointment for he and my mom to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.  A few days before their appointment, the Arizona Department of Health announced that, if available, the on-site clinicians were authorized to vaccinate the “plus one” if accompanying someone with an appointment in the same vehicle.

I took a chance and it paid off.  I was able to get the first vaccination.

The onsite process (for us at least) was one of the most organized “events” I’ve been to in a long time.  And as someone who has worked on large-scale events in the past, I know what it takes to pull something like this off.

But the process is not without its challenges. Thinking as an events person and someone that consults with clients on a regular basis regarding issues management and crisis communications, let me offer some additional advice from that perspective.

Did anyone with public health reach out to those of us that do this kind of work day-in and day-out? One of the first things we advise clients, is plan for the unexpected.  This whole pandemic has been one long series of unexpected, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t have anticipated some of the potential problems.

  • Streamline the online registration process, especially when the vast majority of those trying to register right now are seniors who may not be as tech-savvy and comfortable with putting personal information on the internet.
    • Have you ever waited “in line” to buy tickets to a concert? There are some great examples of sites that you could mirror to make this process easier for all.
    • Once I enter in all the information, it should save. Don’t make me re-enter every time I log in to check appointment availability.
    • Rather than have me pick a date and then see there are no appointments available, why not have the site pull up what IS available and let me select from that list.
    • Add a chatbox function to your website. This might mean increased staff, but you will get some of the basic questions answered and likely ease some of the burden on the system.
  • It’s great that you are open 24/7, that means more appointment times available.
    • That worked for the first three weeks. Now that the waiting period is up for those initial appointments, those people need the second dose and you don’t have appointments available.
    • Consider opening several “second dose” only locations. And if possible, make the appointment for the person at the time of the first dose.  This would save everyone time and the added frustration of having to log on to the website again.
    • Yes, this means more staff, more volunteers and more access to vaccines. But knowing this in advance means you can use a rolling process to bring these on as more becomes available.
  • Answer the phone. Return messages within 24 hours.
    • This is a confusing time for everyone. It is not always easy to find the answers online and if you do, there is a lot of conflicting information.
    • Have more customer service people available to answer phones and if possible, set up appointments.
    • If you have to rely on voice mail, then return calls within 24 hours.
  • Digital communications is a great way to keep the general public aware of what is happening.
    • Continue to use all the channels to keep the community apprised of what’s happening with vaccine distribution.

And review your communications efforts daily.  Are you utilizing everything available to keep the information flowing?  Are you listening to what the callers are asking and responding to their needs?  Are you monitoring social media to ensure you’re responding, where appropriate, to questions and comments that are posted? Are your vaccine locations and processes on-site still working, what adjustments can you make to continually improve?

If and until the vaccine is widely available, there will continue to be these challenges with the system.

We’re here to help.

Written by
at Jan 29, 2021

Share this article