The COVID-19 pandemic brought opportunities for the NIH to collaborate and innovate. The pandemic also demanded nimble action throughout, to ensure high level public support of our NIH community. The NIH COVID-19 vaccination effort, which started in late December 2020, is a prime example of collaboration, creativity, short turnaround needs and nimble and flexible processes. The Office of Research Services Divisions of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS) and Emergency Management (DEM) had been working closely together and with colleagues in the NIH Clinical Center Department of Clinical Research Informatics (DCRI) on testing, contact tracing and reporting the results to leadership.
The teams had also previously collaborated on the initiation of the asymptomatic testing program and added colleagues from the Clinical Center Pharmacy Department to the new team for vaccination program implementation. When it was clear that vaccinations were imminent, the teams collaborated and designed a new registration system for the NIH staff. The software allowed the NIH to prioritize vaccinations for specific workgroups, aligned with the CDC approvals. This was accomplished by loading batches of staff into the system using their NED ID. By utilizing the flexibility of the vaccine manufacturers, our team was able to ensure the safety of our staff. Recently, this group collaborated again, led by Dr. Jon McKeeby, the Chief information Officer at the Clinical Center, on a publication outlining their efforts and the design of the health information technology system that was used in these efforts.
The vaccination program at the NIH was built upon years of experience, but the unique challenges posed by the vaccine types available, supply chain limitations and continued flexibility over time portrayed a remarkable effort by the NIH community. If you are interested in reading the paper, please reach out to Jessica McCormick-Ell for a preprint.