The truly astonishing vaccines are upon us. You doubtless know someone who’s been vaccinated by now and hope abounds that by this summer we could start see what life is going to look like on the other side.
As incredible as the vaccines are, we always knew the hard work was going to be distributing billions of them. Even with all of the massive problems facing the U.S. — in terms of infrastructure, healthcare, and equity — the rollout is going … well it could always be worse.
One manifestation of America’s distribution problem is getting signed up in the first place. The scourge of federalism means there are at least fifty different websites for Americans to navigate, all built to different standards and levels of accessibility, struggling to stay up. The additional scourge of “public/private partnerships” means there are also the websites of pharmacies like CVS to track down for appointments, which often means people are constantly refreshing half a dozen websites at 2am trying to get appointments for their parents, like sneakerheads waiting for the next drop of Yeezys.
Diligent volunteers are pulling together open source websites that aggregate all this info, an effort that is as kind and hopeful and frustrating as it is wholly American.
There is, of course, a better way: a single, nationwide clearinghouse that anyone can log on to and find vaccination appointments, public or private, near them. Barry Patterson, writing for the blog of the govtech consultancy Ad Hoc, lays it out:
A better way is for the federal government to provide a single COVID-19 vaccination website with consistent information about when people can get the vaccine, where, and at what cost. This website should go beyond providing accurate information to help people take action and sign up for a vaccination.
In our discussions with state governments and our explorations of the issues surrounding vaccinations, we’ve landed on a handful of principles that could shape a federal vaccination website and core features the website should provide on launch. These principles are grounded in our work creating action-oriented digital experiences for federal websites including HealthCare.gov, Medicare.gov, VA.gov, and more.
As Hoc’s approach is everything you’d want from such a herculean and important project — thoughtful, detailed, and built on real-world experience. There are even solutions to those built-in scourges of federalism and privatization, instead of just kvetching.
Yesterday, 2.2 million Americans were vaccinated, a record that I hope we will continue to build on. We should also be building infrastructure to handle the myriad problems of American healthcare, not just to tackle future pandemics but all sorts of problems, starting with a nationwide front door to how to get vaccinated today.