The Drawback With Vaccine Web sites

The Problem With Vaccine Websites

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it on weekdays.

If you're having trouble registering for an appointment for a coronavirus vaccine, you are not alone.

In countries like Florida, Texas and New York, there were horror stories about overwhelmed government hotlines or botched online vaccination planning systems. Some health officials resorted to Eventbrite, a website typically used for organizing low-stakes events like bar crawls, to schedule residents' shots.

It's annoying that after the scientific miracle of the invention of Covid-19 vaccines, there are now bureaucratic and technical bottlenecks that have slowed the adoption of vaccines. (Don't hesitate to yell out loud with me.) But don't get mad at botched government technology or just point your anger at your local officials. Be mad at the widespread system failure.

As we've seen with other weaknesses in government programs during the pandemic, botched technology is often a symptom of misguided policy decisions, chronic public health underfunding, and the generally dysfunctional and decentralized response to coronavirus in the United States.

Reading several stories last week about planning botched vaccines in some parts of Florida, I contacted Digital Response, an organization I wrote about earlier that connects tech-savvy volunteers with state and local governments, the tech Need assistance.

Until I spoke to them, I didn't understand how complex the health authorities are to getting people vaccinated. The hard part isn't just the scheduling hotlines or websites that you and I see. It's everything the public doesn't see.

Organization officials outlined eight or more discrete requirements for local governments to administer their vaccination programs. The steps include monitoring incoming and outgoing inventory of recordings, ensuring people meet vaccine approval requirements, scheduling appointments (twice!) And reminding people of them, collecting patient information and keeping records, to report them to state and federal health authorities and possibly billing for health insurance programs.

Government officials also need to inform the public about where and when vaccines are available, ensure that health information is safe and private, and that services are available to those who do not have a computer or speak languages ​​other than English. Sounds super fun and easy, doesn't it ?!

I'm not trying to divert the blame on American federal, state, and local authorities for preventing people from getting shot any faster. You could make smarter decisions despite all the limitations. But I encourage us to understand what this is about.

Imagine Amazon trying to manage all of its orders and packages except with confusing and ever-changing orders from bosses and after years of underinvestment in people and technology.

In addition, no one has ever carried out a vaccination campaign on this scale and at this speed.

So is it no wonder local newspaper reporters tried to help Floridians deal with a confusing online form, or that some counties tried to use Eventbrite when hotlines went down? "I respect that they are trying to move forward as quickly as possible," said Diana Wang, product manager for the U.S.D.R. health program.

She added that using Eventbrite might not have been the right decision because being a private company doesn't necessarily guarantee people's privacy and some scammers are posing as local health departments online.

The frustrating thing is that all botched vaccination efforts follow a pattern. When government programs that are unsupervised, underfunded and bogged down by bureaucracy suddenly have to meet high demand in a crisis, they cannot handle it and people suffer.

Covid19 vaccinations>

Answers to your vaccine questions

If I live in the US, when can I get the vaccine?

While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary from state to state, most doctors and residents of long-term care facilities will come first. If you want to understand how this decision is made, this article will help.

When can I get back to normal life after the vaccination?

Life will only get back to normal once society as a whole receives adequate protection against the coronavirus. Once countries approve a vaccine, they can only vaccinate a few percent of their citizens in the first few months. The unvaccinated majority remain susceptible to infection. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines show robust protection against disease. However, it is also possible for people to spread the virus without knowing they are infected because they have mild or no symptoms. Scientists don't yet know whether the vaccines will also block the transmission of the coronavirus. Even vaccinated people have to wear masks for the time being, avoid the crowds indoors and so on. Once enough people are vaccinated, it becomes very difficult for the coronavirus to find people at risk to become infected. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve this goal, life could approach a normal state in autumn 2021.

Do I still have to wear a mask after the vaccination?

Yeah, but not forever. The two vaccines that may be approved this month clearly protect people from contracting Covid-19. However, the clinical trials that produced these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected with the coronavirus can spread it while they don't have a cough or other symptoms. Researchers will study this question intensively when the vaccines are introduced. In the meantime, self-vaccinated people need to think of themselves as potential spreaders.

Will it hurt What are the side effects?

The vaccine against Pfizer and BioNTech, like other typical vaccines, is delivered as a shot in the arm. The injection is no different from the ones you received before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported serious health problems. However, some of them have experienced short-lived symptoms, including pain and flu-like symptoms that usually last a day. It is possible that after the second shot, people will need to have a day off to work freely or go to school. While these experiences are not pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system's encounter with the vaccine and a strong reaction that ensures lasting immunity.

Will mRNA vaccines change my genes?

No. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use a genetic molecule to boost the immune system. This molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse with a cell, allowing the molecule to slide inside. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus that can stimulate the immune system. At any given moment, each of our cells can contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules that they produce to make their own proteins. As soon as these proteins are made, our cells use special enzymes to break down the mRNA. The mRNA molecules that our cells make can only survive a few minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell's enzymes a little longer, so the cells can make extra viral proteins and trigger a stronger immune response. However, the mRNA can hold for a few days at most before it is destroyed.

It doesn't have to be like that. Israel has started vaccinating a relatively large percentage of its population, despite the country facing doses shortages and vaccines failing to reach some populations.

If you start to pull your hair out because you cannot register for a vaccine on a local website, remember that it is not (just) the fault of a bad tech company or bad decisions made by government leaders today. It's a systematic failure.

Tip of the week

Brian X. Chen, the personal technology columnist for the New York Times, gives us options for taking some breaks when we are prone to wallowing in stressful world events.

Some of the news this month was so stressful that many of us needed reminders to open our jaws and stop staring at our screens.

In my recent column on Creating a Digital Detox Plan, I described methods like setting up phone-free zones around the home – keep appliances away from the bedroom! – and deactivate app notifications. Some of us may need more extreme measures, such as: B. restricting access to the messages.

For example, you can temporarily block your smartphone from accessing certain websites and apps like Twitter, CNN, and even the New York Times – whatever keeps you trapped in an endless cycle of doom and gloom.

On Androids and iPhones, one approach is to download an app that allows you to blacklist certain websites. For iPhones, for example, 1Blocker is an ad blocker that includes a function to restrict certain websites. On Androids, you can use the BlockSite app to set times to block websites and apps.

Apple users can also use the built-in Screen Time tool for iPhones, and Android users can use Google's Family Link. Both products have controls for setting daily deadlines for selecting apps and websites.

Temporarily blocking access just makes it a bit more difficult to check the messages, which helps break the obsessive desire to doomscroll. Try these steps whenever you need a break, such as B. on the weekend or at dinner.

  • The Internet splinters the election deniers: Groups organizing potentially more violent protests against the US presidential election have drawn to lesser-known online hangouts like 4chan and Telegram. My colleague Sheera Frenkel wrote that attempts to organize violent activity may be harder to spot and stop because organizers are fragmented online and these digital spaces are not as easily monitored as open websites like Facebook.

  • Unlike baseball, Twitter scores five hits and you're out: My colleague Kate Conger wrote that Twitter removed more than 70,000 accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory. The company also changed its policies to impose increasing penalties on those who repeatedly disseminated election or voting misinformation, including permanent account suspension after five violations. I wrote about the effects of habitual disseminators of false information last week.

  • The high cost of bad memory: Imagine having two more guesses about a password before you lose $ 220 million. My colleague Nathaniel Popper wrote about people who own the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, worth millions of dollars, but cannot access their assets because they forgot their password.

Marbles is the term used for starlings that cluster together to fly in intricate, interrelated patterns. And this ballet of birds is beautiful.

We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this newsletter and what else you would like us to explore. You can reach us at [email protected]

If you do not have this newsletter in your inbox yet, please register here.