The Biden administration launched Vaccines.gov on Friday to help people find COVID-19 vaccines near them. Selena Simmons-Duffin / NPR hide caption
Selena Simmons-Duffin / NPR
Selena Simmons-Duffin / NPR
The Biden government on Friday launched a website and line of text to help people find COVID-19 vaccines near where they live. A national 1-800 hotline in dozens of languages will also be announced soon, according to a senior official with the Department of Health and Human Services.
Vaccines.gov Previously, general vaccine instructions were offered, such as: B. Explanations of how they work and why they are important. Now there is a tool that will allow users to enter their zip code and see which pharmacies and other vendors have COVID-19 vaccine doses in stock.
The online tool is a new and improved version of VaccineFinder, a website of Boston Children’s Hospital, Castlight, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This website was launched with information on COVID-19 vaccines End of Februarylooked very similar.
Vaccines.gov improvements include a Spanish language version of the website – Vacunas.gov – New accessibility features for people with visual impairments and around three times as many vaccine providers John Brownstein, the founder of VaccineFinder and chief information officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“With extensive coverage, it’s just getting easier for people to use the website, get a vaccine, and ultimately get that shot,” he says. When VaccineFinder launched in February, only five states showed all available vaccine providers. Now, Brownstein says, it is the “vast majority of states,” and they are working with those last states to get them included.
Two lines of text were also started on Friday. If you send your zip code to GETVAX (for English) or VACUNA (for Spanish) you will receive a message with three possible vaccination centers with telephone numbers where you can make an appointment.
There are plans to promote these new tools to various hard-to-reach populations, a senior HHS official wrote in a statement to NPR. “For example, we will promote the 1-800 number in rural areas that may have less access to broadband and target younger people with digital ads with information about the SMS tool.”
At the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign a Patchwork approach Registering people for vaccine appointments and constantly changing the admission rules that have been done for a crazy couple of months. People described staying up until midnight to snap up newly published appointments or compulsively update appointment pages. Vaccine hunt Groups were formed to try to connect with appointments those who had difficulty navigating the difficult systems.
Now the country is in a different phase. Eligibility to participate is open to everyone over the age of 16 across the country. Many public health vaccination centers are switching from distributing coveted invitations to those who have pre-registered to allowing walk-ins. Demand appears to have subsided in many places, and the rate of vaccination slowed from 4.6 million a day a few weeks ago to an average of 2.7 million at the end of April.
Vaccine.gov is part of the Biden government’s effort to provide more assertive federal leadership on the COVID-19 public health response. In particular, it fulfills a promise President Biden made in Observations on March 11thWhen he said his administration would introduce new tools “to make it easier for you to find the vaccine and where to get the shot, including a new website to help you find your place first.” get vaccinated, and the place near you. ”
Brownstein says they hope to keep expanding the website to include new features, such as the ability to book appointments directly through Vaccines.gov. “We’re trying to reduce the number of steps people have to take to get appointments,” he says. Finally, they hope to “integrate directly with our partners to make it as easy as possible for consumers”.
Giving people the ability to find and book appointments in a one-stop shop would be a game changer, he says Melissa McPheeterswho directs the Center for Public Health Improvement through Computer Science at Vanderbilt University.
The current options for making an appointment have been difficult for people, she says. “You can go online, you can see there is an appointment somewhere, but you still have to go to the Kroger website or the Wal-Mart website or the CVS website.”
She wishes these new federal tools would make it easy for you to see where the walk-in clinics are near you. All you had to do was enter your zip code and get into your car. And she notes, “Getting people to want to use the site in the first place is critical.” Millions of Americans say they are still not sure whether they will be vaccinated – or have made up their minds about it latest survey by KFF.
The new accessibility features are encouraging, says Zuhair Mahmoud, an accessibility based in Washington, DC. He is blind and uses a screen reader to access the internet. The new Vaccines.gov website can be used with a screen reader, but adds that the accessibility issues remain when booking an appointment. “The website is really just a gateway to finding vaccines. To check availability and make an appointment, the website takes you to the vaccine supplier’s website and there’s no telling what that is like,” he notes.
The Spanish version of the website – along with the hotline and line of text – can be helpful in reaching some of the populations who have not yet been vaccinated. Samantha ArtigaThis is what the director of the Racial Justice and Health Policy Program at the Kaiser Family Foundation says Data shows a persistent gap in vaccination rates between whites and blacks and Hispanic Americans.
“From the data itself, we cannot fully understand the factors that fill this gap,” she says. “It could reflect barriers related to the location of vaccination clinics, the different ways people travel, the different levels of confidence or comfort in different types of locations where vaccinations are offered.”
Good translations could help remove language barriers for non-English speakers, says Suyanna Linhales Barker, director of programs and community services at The People’s Clinic, providing vaccinations and outreach for the Latino community in Washington, DC
But it can’t just be the website itself that is being translated, she says. Outreach materials also need translation, as do registration forms on pharmacy and public health websites and even text or email communications about when and where to go once your appointment is scheduled.
She says a national website and hotlines could help streamline things, but at the same time, local personal efforts need to be made. On Thursday, she and a few coworkers spent several hours on the sidewalk outside a community center in Washington, DC, chatting with passers-by about the COVID-19 vaccine, and checking in on the spot to get a shot.
And they planned more personal contacts. “In the neighborhoods around the clinic, we go to every beauty salon, every small grocery store, post information and ask people to call us if they have any questions,” she said.
She says she anticipates they will do this work to spread the word and answer questions by the end of the year.