A user experience diagnosis of the COVID vaccine rollout

smiling older woman in black and white
Photo by alpay tonga on Unsplash

Although the U.S. is leading the world in vaccines administered — we’re leading China by over 47% (14.7mm vs 10mm). Why has the vaccine rollout fallen short? We’ve given less than 50% of the available doses. The feds are also no longer holding doses in reserve. So the issue is not really supply.

A key issue is vaccine appointment capacity. This means more sites and more staff. Once we are able to get a handle on that, the next most important issue is getting appointments — especially for our most vulnerable. These include seniors, as well as other high-risk populations who don’t have reliable access to the internet or the skills necessary to sort through the excess of poorly curated information.

I’m based in Maryland, and now that we’re in phase “1B,” I’m motivated to get my Grandmother her vaccine. She’s 81 and lives alone. She’s been isolated since March, but luckily she lives in downtown Baltimore so she has a bit of a support network in her neighbors. How can I help get my Grandmother a vaccine?

Operation: Get Grandma a vaccine

image of the initial form for registering for a vaccine appointment
You select from a list of returned locations to sign up for a vaccine at the specific site

Through the last 3 days of sifting through state and county-run websites, it appears the best route is to go through your county’s COVID vaccine website. After finding Baltimore City’s “Registration Links,” which are buried at the bottom of an already buried page, you are taken to “PrepMod” which appears to be the state’s vaccination registration page.

By clicking “Search,” and not entering any criteria, you are given the full list of available clinics. How would I know what a “TIKE” clinic is? It sounds like it’s for tikes or children, but it also serves all ages.

image of a covid vaccine clinic that’s been selected in the appointment registration app
You select from a list of returned locations to sign up for a vaccine at the specific site

I get that you might want to get vaccinated closest to your home — but since there are no appointments available at this location, I need to page through 4 pages of results to see what appointments are available. There do happen to be vaccines available in Kent County and Caroline County. These are driving distance for Grandma — but you must be a resident of that county to get a vaccine (but you can still register).

image showing how i can register in Caroline County although I’m in Baltimore County

I decided I’d still try to register Grandma at the Baltimore City Health Department’s (BCHD) TIKE clinic. Once you click “Sign Up for a COVID-19 Vaccination,” you are taken through a pretty straightforward enrollment process adding basic demographic and comorbidity information.

image showing how to add to the waitlist

At the end, you are given the available appointment times or “Add to waiting list.” This radio button was not a very clear option, and since there were no appointments available, I thought it should be the only option. The appointment selection buttons are still visible but are not selectable.

The existence of the “Find Another Location” button implies that you are only adding to the waitlist of this location. I added Grandma to the waiting list and got a confirmation email. Good, at least now I hope that I’ll get notified once appointments become available.

Recommendations to Health Departments

  1. Make the “PrepMod” vaccine registration page more prominent. Why is it so difficult to find?
  2. Leverage waiting list. If there are no vaccine appointments available, make this the call to action.
  3. Add a waiting list by county. If I add to the waiting list at one site, will I be alerted to vaccine availability just a few miles across town? This vaccine is in high demand. People will travel for it.
  4. Require search parameters by county. If you can’t get a vaccination across county lines, don’t permit search on other counties.
  5. Think of vaccine registration as a funnel. Get the right kind of traffic to PrepMod, and convert users to waiting lists. Then sort through leads when capacity becomes available.
  6. Use Twilio to do auto-calls for registration. Many seniors do not have the same internet sleuthing capabilities as the younger generation. Alternative registration forms must be considered.
  7. What else? What are you seeing in your state? What is working?

Thanks, and let me know how you’re planning to get Grandma a COVID vaccine!

The UX Collective donates US$1 for each article published on our platform. This story contributed to Bay Area Black Designers: a professional development community for Black people who are digital designers and researchers in the San Francisco Bay Area. By joining together in community, members share inspiration, connection, peer mentorship, professional development, resources, feedback, support, and resilience. Silence against systemic racism is not an option. Build the design community you believe in.

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