With the launch of the cowid-19 vaccination program by the US government, the country will face one of the biggest logistics challenges in history. At this time, many Americans will ask why the big technology companies that usually exist everywhere can not participate in the operation. Amazon can deliver a mobile phone charger in two days. Why can't it use its logistics strength to vaccinate a country quickly? Google collects so much data about users, why can't it track and determine who needs to be vaccinated?
Take what happened in Iowa recently. In just a week, the state canceled its contract with Microsoft to run its vaccination appointment system. But officials say it's not because of Microsoft's lack of technology. Even for a technology giant like Microsoft, it's too difficult to piece together the existing digital infrastructure in 99 counties.
Other technology companies are positioning themselves in vaccine promotion in a completely different way. Uber and LYFT have offered free shuttle vaccination appointments. Google and Verizon are helping to pay for advertising to promote vaccine awareness. Google and apple have been involved in discussions about a possible vaccine passport, but have not announced any specific plans.
Amazon and other companies evaded the promotion of vaccines throughout the region by working directly with the White House. On the day of the inauguration, Amazon executives offered to help the Biden administration distribute the vaccine, stressing that the company's own 800000 American workers should be the first to get the vaccine. Biden's team is currently in talks with Amazon about how the company can assist the president in his national vaccination program, according to sources with Amazon and the White House who are not authorized to speak publicly.
But one of the most common ways to help big technology companies like Google, salesforce and Microsoft has had mixed results. Because they're trying to create a statewide website that allows people to book vaccinations.
Other states, including California, are also trying to set up a shared portal for vaccination registration, but the coverage of these websites is limited. The California unified website, myturn, is supported by salesforce and a bay area startup called skedulo.
But for now, myturn, run by the California public health service, provides vaccines only to most urban areas of the state, excluding many suburban counties and some agricultural and rural areas. CVs and Walgreens are not included in this statewide online search tool. These two large retailers have completely independent vaccine pipelines and have not sought help from Silicon Valley. Nor does it take into account the state's major health care providers, such as Kaiser Permanente, which are running their own independent registration systems.
But public health experts say these challenges are not necessarily the fault of big technology. Technology companies are sandwiched between how state and county health departments set up vaccination registration systems. Some systems focus on vaccinating as many people as possible. But other public health departments focus on vaccinating the neglected elderly, ethnic minorities and low-income groups, who have unreliable Internet access.
Local governments also seem willing to pay for these projects. Oklahoma paid Microsoft nearly $500000 from December to the end of July last year to run its system, according to a public record request. That's nearly 1% of Oklahoma's Department of health's $59 million it budget.
North Carolina recently signed a nearly $1.1 million contract with Google to provide next year's services to create a unified statewide system, rather than allowing citizens and county-level public health entities to run on their own.
But public health officials point out that no matter how good the vaccination registration websites created by technology companies are, there are some key groups that will never be covered. Because there are still millions of Americans who need to be vaccinated, but they can't even access the Internet or even register. Rhoads recommends that local health authorities find ways to reach out to people who have no skills, can't access the Internet, or don't trust big technology companies, and let them use these websites.