The week of December 14 will go down in history, marking the first deliveries of COVID-19 vaccine injections in the U.S., just days after the FDA granted emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to fight coronavirus. On Tuesday, the first shots of the new vaccine were administered in New York, which was ravaged by the outbreak earlier this year.
While national and local news outlets have celebrated the delivery of the first doses and the nurses and hospital workers receiving them, people around the country still have questions about when they’ll be able to receive their vaccine. Each state has been tasked with developing their own vaccine distribution plan, contributing to confusion and differing definitions of “essential worker” status from one state to the next.
A national rollout of this scale, administered independently across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, requires an enormous amount of cooperation, data sharing, and computing power. Microsoft’s technology and mission underlie a significant amount of infrastructure related to the successful and equitable distribution of the vaccine across the U.S. In fact, Microsoft has been working with private and public sector organizations around the world to support this monumental task. Bill Gates, the co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, has been working with governments and labs across the globe to enable vaccine research, manufacturing, and distribution across the developing world, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Microsoft Continues Response to Global COVID-Related Challenges
Earlier this year, Microsoft proved the power of AI in addressing challenges related to COVID-19 concerns faced by healthcare agencies. Healthcare agency call centers, hospital emergency rooms, and urgent care clinics were overloaded with inquiries and concerns about COVID-19, which elevated the risks of infection spread and provider burnout. Partnering with government, public health agencies, and healthcare organizations worldwide, Microsoft developed and deployed an AI-based chatbot technology called Microsoft Health Bot, which can deliver individualized COVID-19 guidance, symptom checker, and information on how and where to get tested for the virus.
During clinical trials of the vaccine, pharmaceutical companies and researchers employed the same bot technology, built on Azure and Microsoft’s common data model (CDM), to enable large-scale recruitment of donors for the clinical trials.
Challenges to COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
Like any other vaccine distribution, there are a number of challenges in administering the COVID-19 vaccine globally, including supply chain, procurement, demand forecasting, adverse reaction tracking and reporting, and integration with immunization records and EHR platforms. There are highly unique challenges to this operation, including fair allocation, prioritization and phased eligibility, registration, tracking, cold-chain storage supply and transportation, and the need to vaccinate a critical mass of the world’s population of over 7 billion people during a global pandemic.
Faced with such an enormous and complex operation, no single government or organizational entity can solve vaccine distribution challenges on its own. Data and AI solutions will be especially important to providing insights and informing decisions made by public health officials about the virus.
Technology and Partnerships Key to Meeting Challenges Ahead
The World Economic Forum stated in September that logistics around the COVID-19 vaccines are “the challenge of a lifetime” and that to achieve global distribution, “technology will play a vital role in ensuring the smooth execution along every step of the supply chain.”
“The goal is to enable a fair, equitable, and efficient distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine,” remarked Dr. David Rhew, Microsoft’s Worldwide Chief Medical Officer. “In response to this urgent need, we need a secure and interoperable platform that balances the complexities of the registration, scheduling, and supply chain distribution, with the broader public health mission to deliver a safe and effective vaccine in a prioritized manner.”
From the onset of the pandemic, Microsoft has been involved in discussions with public health officials and partners to identify the key imperatives that any vaccine management offering should include, aiming to create a standard for which developers and the ecosystem of delivery partners can utilize to build the effective and interoperable platforms required to win the war against COVID-19.
Working with business partners, including Accenture, Avanade, EY, and Mazik Global, Microsoft launched a vaccine management platform and solutions for both government and healthcare customers. The platforms enable registration capabilities for patients and providers, track phased scheduling for vaccinations, streamline reporting, secure communication via Microsoft Teams for Healthcare, and provide management dashboards with analytics and forecasting. Using the technology, providers and pharmacies can monitor and report on effectiveness of specific batches of vaccine deliveries, and public health administrators can easily summarize progress toward vaccine deployment goals in large population groups.
Accenture and Avanade are working with Microsoft to meet the needs of fair and equitable global vaccine distribution, administration, and monitoring. Leveraging Accenture’s strategic consulting, industry and implementation expertise, as well as Microsoft’s data, cloud, and technology capabilities, these partners are building robust and scalable solutions for vaccine authorities around the world.
Meanwhile, EY is focusing its partnership with Microsoft on the manufacturing and distribution process of the vaccine. According to the company, the EY Vaccine Management Solution is built on multiple Microsoft technologies, including Microsoft Azure, Dynamics 365, Power BI, and Power Platform, to enable patient-provider engagement, supply chain visibility, and Internet of Things (IoT) real-time monitoring of the vaccines. Additionally, the EY Vaccine Analytics Solution is an integrated COVID-19 data and analytics tool supporting stakeholders in understanding population and geography-specific vaccine uptake.
Mazik Global is leveraging their expertise in the health-tech industry to create MazikCare Vaccine Flow, built on the PowerApps platform. Vaccine Flow offers pre-built templates to implement scalable solutions that will accelerate the mass distribution of the vaccine. Public health agencies and providers will be able to seek out specific populations based on risk criteria to prioritize distribution and ensure an equitable delivery plan. One of MazikCare’s most valuable capabilities will be monitoring inventory levels as well as the temperature of vials in inventory, ensuring each vaccine delivered is effective in its objectives.
Power Where You Need It
Microsoft and its partners are utilizing Microsoft’s industry-leading, highly secure cloud, and connected technologies to address the most urgent challenges the healthcare industry is facing today. To learn more about the Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, or how your business can leverage Microsoft’s most powerful technology, contact Windows Management Experts today.
To learn more about your state’s vaccine distribution plan, visit USA Today’s helpful list with links to all 50 states.