$44 Million Vaccine System From CDC Gets Few Takers Among States

A $44 million software system supplied for free to states by the U.S. government to help track Covid-19 vaccinations is only being used by nine states, with Virginia transitioning out and Connecticut exploring alternatives.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contracted with Deloitte & Touche LLP for the system last spring. Called VAMS, short for Vaccine Administration Management System, it was billed by the CDC as an “easy-to-use, secure, online tool to manage vaccine administration from the time the vaccine arrives at a clinic to when it is administered to a recipient.”

Yet more than a month into the vaccination campaign, 41 states aren’t using the tool and some users are expressing frustration. Mike Dacey, chief clinical operations officer of Virginia-based Riverside Health System, said it was slow and kept crashing, causing the health system to ditch the software within the first week of employee vaccination clinics.

“It was obvious it was not good,” Dacey said.

Chaotic Rollout

Frustration with VAMS offers a window into one of the most problematic parts of the vaccine rollout: The failure to properly prepare to schedule and track millions of immunizations. A solid national vaccine-tracking system could have helped avoid some of the chaos playing out as people struggle to use haphazard registration websites. Instead, VAMS is going largely unused.

VAMS is a data system designed to help schedule and record vaccinations, with features for health departments, providers, employers and the public. It allows people to register for appointments and clinics to share immunization data to state and federal databases.

“A lot of jurisdictions thought it was better to leverage what was there than to try to introduce something new,” said Mary Beth Kurilo, senior director of health informatics at the American Immunization Registry Association.

Idaho decided against using VAMS last fall because the software did not appear ready or able to solve Idaho’s problems, said Sarah Leeds, the state’s immunization program manager.

Virginia is switching to another vaccine management system, according to Tammie Smith, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Health. Moving forward, she said, Virginia will use PrepMod, a system from the Multi-State Partnership for Prevention, a software provider for health systems.

“PrepMod has some additional functionality (for both clinics and data reporting) and is more customizable in terms of the screens and fields we choose to implement, which we believe will help enhance our vaccination clinic workflow,” Smith said in an email.

Making Improvements

The CDC holds regular meetings for states to share feedback on improvements they’d like to see, Nordlund said. Deloitte, meanwhile, “continues to enhance the system based on feedback and priorities of VAMS users,” spokesman Austin Price said in a statement. Beyond the states, the system is being used by one territory and three federal agencies.

The CDC declined to identify the system’s current users.

After ditching VAMS, Riverside started logging employee immunizations in software from Epic Systems Corp., Dacey said. Riverside uses PrepMod for public vaccination clinics.

Connecticut is using VAMS yet is exploring alternatives, said Maura Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Department of Public Health. It wants to deploy a system that would be easier to use by people who don’t speak English and accessible for those who are visually impaired, Fitzgerald said.

A page on the health department’s website walks people through the registration process. “The system may be a bit challenging to navigate at first -- but with some support, most people are able to find and schedule an appointment through VAMS,” it reads.

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