When the initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout happened in the United States, finding a leftover dose seemed to be the “golden goose” during the pandemic. The extra shots, which medical professionals were required to administer within hours of removal from cold storage, were previously given to lucky shoppers within the facility. Alternatively, clinics were left calling potential candidates for an emergency opening or booking an appointment with close contact within the facility. Unfortunately, not all leftover vaccines found their way into an available arm before the expiry. In these catastrophic situations, the vaccine found itself in the trash.
Attempting to reduce the overall vaccine waste, a start-up company tried to match vaccine providers with available individuals wanting to receive the shot at a moment’s notice. The program was free for individuals and clinics to register, with over 2.5 million users and 755 different clinics joining across the United States.
What Happened During the Vaccine Rollout in the United States?
As vaccine distribution began in early 2021, individual states developed criteria and protocols for qualification. A few qualifications looked at personal health, placing those with pre-existing medical conditions on higher eligibility tiers than the public. Age was another determining factor in eligibility; senior citizens were given significant focus during the initial immunization phase.
Vaccine scarcity ensued when conditions continued to broaden—long lineups and queues formed at clinics and facilities. Many clinics were left to the online scheduling and booking procedures without a universal standby list. For many individuals, the frustration of online booking protocols meant playing a lottery of appointment times and booking. With no-shows and cancelations, vaccine distribution shifted to healthcare professionals to fill the surplus of doses, facing strict expiry times within hours of removal from cold storage. Regardless of the nationwide vaccine shortage, doses that couldn’t be administered before the expiry were discarded.
What Did the Dr. B Waitlist Do Overall?
One Dr. B review highlights the development of a national standby list for medical services that didn’t otherwise exist. The platform received reports from registered clinics of extra vaccine quantities, including an estimated expiry. From there, the platform sent automated messages to individuals wanting to receive their COVID-19 vaccine, typically on the same day. The platform automatically prioritized applicants according to risk factors, sending out notifications to high-risk applicants before moving on to general registrations.
How Did Registrations Work on the Platform?
Registration was free for vaccine providers and individuals wanting the dose, removing the financial burden from accessibility. People looking to register through the network visited the website and completed the online registration form. The form included basic contact information, including chronic health conditions and employment details. Individuals that struggled with personal registration were able to use community advocates to sign up on their behalf.
After an individual joined the network, the website’s algorithm predetermined their priority status. An applicant would then receive a notification when a clinic had availability nearby.
What Happened with Dr. B’s Notifications?
The platform would automatically notify eligible people of available appointments through their contact information. Those contacted individuals received the clinic address and vaccine expiration through SMS notifications. All individuals obtained fifteen minutes to confirm or decline the appointment time.
The clinic received confirmation when an individual accepted the appointment. The algorithm placed declined positions at the back of their group. If they declined the vaccination slot, the next person on the priority list received the notification.
Providers registered with Dr. B’s standby list completed the vaccine availability for the day and any expiration details. The platform handled all other information for the clinic, automatically notifying applicants of the availability.
Did Dr. B Make a Difference During the Pandemic?
Dr. B held two clinics registered for the standby list during the initial launch. As the pandemic continued, clinic registrations exceeded 755 locations across the United States. Individual registrations continued to grow as mainstream media began covering the story. At the end of the campaign, approximately 2.5 million people registered with Dr. B, hoping to receive an immunization appointment. According to the website, Dr. B sent out over one million vaccine notifications to potential candidates throughout the United States.
What Happened to the Information Collected?
Although the Dr. B website wasn’t governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the network held strict confidentiality for all registrations. The platform offered bank-level encryption, ensuring safe data transfer.
Dr. B’s Plans Moving Forward
While COVID-19 immunizations have closed registrations, the company hopes to continue healthcare initiatives moving forward. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted various inequalities among communities, whether accessibility concerns or distribution errors. Dr. B plans to implement the standby system in other essential frameworks within healthcare sectors, developing an improved method for all citizens and simultaneously removing barriers.