The rate of daily vaccinations continues to increase throughout the United States, but communities are struggling to vaccinate hard-to-reach residents. When vaccine roll-out began in January, 55% of Americans did not even know where they would receive a vaccine. Today, a lack of access to technology continues to undermine access to vaccine appointments, particularly older residents. Technology seems to be more of a barrier than a channel for reaching many populations. To succeed, local leaders need to reimagine “technology solutions” as community-driven processes, where local knowledge and needs are prioritized.

During a recent convening of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Pandemic Solution Group, panelist Jessica Cole, Chief Operating Officer at U.S. Digital Response[i] framed technology in this way: “Technology is not always Artificial intelligence or whizbang databases. In this case, technology is making sure that people on the front lines are able to get the delivery right.” Across the nation, community leaders are rising to the challenge and reimagining how technology can facilitate equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

When pediatric surgeon, Dr. Ala Stanford, realized that people of color in her community were dying disproportionately because they could not get a Covid-19 test, she launched the Black Doctors Covid-19 Consortium (BDCC), a non-profit organization that has expanded access to Covid-19 testing for Black residents in Philadelphia. The group intentionally calls itself the Black Doctors Covid-19 Consortium, wanting “to connote trust in the name” to Black Philadelphians.

As vaccines began to roll-out across the United States, Dr. Stanford knew Black Philadelphians would register for BDCC’s vaccine program given the organization’s community ties, relationships, and support from over 24,000 locals who were tested for Covid-19. Within the first week of launching its initial vaccine signup, 10,000 people signed up online for vaccine appointments, 92% of whom were Latinx or Black. Within a few weeks, “the digital divide crept in,” and that number fell from 92% to 50%, as more individuals from affluent neighborhoods began registering with BDCC.

Read the full article about technology for COVID-19 vaccine rollout by Evan Tachovsky and Grayson Wiles at The Rockefeller Foundation.