Google Cloud is helping states increase COVID-19 vaccines

The cloud provider is partnering with Massachusetts, North Carolina, Arizona, Oregon and Virginia to help with a variety of efforts at scale.

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On the heels of the launch of its Intelligent Vaccine Impact to help communities get vaccines to more people quickly and effectively, Google has partnered with Massachusetts, North Carolina, Arizona, Oregon and Virginia to help with mass vaccination initiatives.

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Many states have deployed IVIs to integrate with their existing technology infrastructures to meet demand, Google said. In some states and localities, the cloud provider said it is assisting with vaccine information, scheduling, distribution and analytics.

"In other states, we're solving discrete issues like enabling data sharing and analytics from multiple vaccine sites or providing key metrics back to individual sites,'' said Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud, in a blog post. 

Helping get Arizonans vaccinated

Arizona's Department of Health Services hired Google Cloud and its partner MTX in December 2020 to build an end-to-end vaccine management distribution system that would allow its 4 million citizens to schedule and receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Kurian said.

Google Cloud built a centralized system, along with a dashboard that provides counties and tribes across Arizona with a consistent approach to managing and monitoring the vaccine administration process, in a few weeks, he said.

SEE: Big data's role in COVID-19 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Public health departments in the state can use predictive analytics to forecast the trajectory of the virus, as well as other potential infectious disease outbreaks, Google said.

So far, Arizona has administered 2.6 million vaccines, and the Google Cloud system has booked almost 1.5 million appointments. The system booked more than 150,000 appointments in the first two hours of the site launch. 

Helping Massachusetts ramp up its vaccination process

In mid-March, Google Cloud began working with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to launch a new vaccine pre-registration system to help ramp up its vaccination efforts quickly. The goal of the newly deployed system is to let residents quickly complete an online form, inputting personal details, contact information and eligibility criteria.

The commonwealth then provides a notification via text messages, email or voicemail to alert residents when they can book an appointment at nearest vaccination sites.  

 This new pre-registration system eliminates the need for users to repeatedly search to find appointments throughout the state at vaccination sites, according to Google. The system includes a waiting list that allows the commonwealth to proactively provide notices and weekly status updates confirming that users are pre-registered.

As appointments become available, the pre-registration system sends a link to book an appointment, and users have 24 hours to select their desired appointment time. If the appointment time is not reserved, the system will automatically alert the next resident in line. On the first day of the state's launch, more than 400,000 citizens pre-registered for a vaccine. At the height of activity the site was registering 19 pre-registrations per second, Kurian said. 

Streamlining vaccine information for North Carolinians 

North Carolina and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services began working with Google Cloud in late January to develop online tools to help residents determine eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine and then locate the closest vaccine provider.

The Find My Vaccine Group site allows local citizens to answer a series of questions related to their occupation, age, and other risk factors to determine which vaccine group they are in. The Find a Vaccine Location site was deployed to help users find participating vaccine provider locations across the state. It uses Google Maps Platform APIs to enable users to search by zip code, current location, or current map view, and is updated regularly with the latest available provider information, Kurian said.

The state is working with Google on a few other COVID-related projects. "Our newest effort is to develop a process and technology to streamline accessing information for North Carolinians,'' said Sam Gibbs, deputy secretary for technology and operations, in a statement. "This technology will provide a central location for residents to find information such as when it is their turn to get their vaccine or guidance to easily locate a vaccination location."

To date, more than 2 million North Carolinians have leveraged both sites, with a major uptick expected as the vaccine rollout continues. 

Helping Oregonians increase vaccination rates

In February, Oregon was preparing to increase the number of residents eligible to get vaccinated and needed a way to better communicate with its community.

The Oregon Health Authority, in partnership with Google Cloud and Spring ML, built Get Vaccinated Oregon, a vaccine eligibility screening and scheduling system to help increase the state's vaccine rate.

Oregonians can now create an online profile for themselves and family members to determine eligibility for the vaccine and receive push notification as their eligibility status changes, Kurian said. 

OHA and Google Cloud have also partnered with local healthcare providers that can now share information on mass vaccination events in their communities, he said. Eligible Oregonians in those communities will automatically receive a notification that they can schedule a vaccine appointment.

"The ability to share information and support the people of Oregon in their search for active vaccination sites is key to managing the COVID- 19 virus for the long term," said Kris Kautz, deputy director of the OHA, in a statement.

To date, more than 400,000 Oregonians have registered to receive communication about their eligibility and get connected to local vaccine events.

Centralizing vaccine management in Virginia 

In February, the Virginia Department of Health launched its COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration campaign, Vaccinate Virginia. Initially, Virginia localities had implemented individual COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration data collection systems, but they provided little insight into priority groups and allocation strategy, according to Google.

VDH needed an auto-scaling, resilient platform, and selected Google Cloud and partner SpringML to build it. VDH also wanted to import all the previously collected data so any user in one of the participating localities could check the central site and find their information in the system. VDH needed everything built, tested and ready in days. 

"We had an immediate need to have Virginians pre-register in a standardized manner for the COVID-19 vaccine to appropriately manage the vaccine administration process,'' said Suresh Soudararajan, CIO of the VDH, in a statement. The partnership with Google Cloud and SpringML meant the commonwealth was able "to deliver the solution in record time," Soudararajan said.

Virginia has 8 million residents, and more than 1 million are now vaccine-eligible. On launch day, more than 200,000 pre-registered in the first 24 hours, according to Kurian.

More than 400,000 people were in the state's system by the end of the first week it went live. By the end of February, the state had more than 1.9 million records in the new system, Kurian said.

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By Esther Shein

Esther Shein is a longtime freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in several online and print publications. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of Datamation, a managing editor at BYTE, and a senior writer at eWeek (formerly PC Week)...