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Equal Access: Twilio Commits to Vaccine Assistance
Communities most at risk to COVID-19 are ones most often lacking the resources needed to stay informed and schedule their vaccination appointments. Twilio is taking aim at this inequity in vaccine distribution with an assistance program announced earlier this month.
To solve this problem, Twilio has committed to helping organizations deliver Twilio-powered communications on vaccine information, distribution, coordination, and administration to a goal of one billion people over the next 12 to 24 months. One billion might seem like a tough goal to achieve, but over 450 federal, state and local governments, health services, educational institutions, non-governmental organizations, and non-profits are already using Twilio as part of their vaccination efforts to solve logistical and educational challenges, Reilly said.
Twilio’s vaccine assistance program includes $10 million in grants from Twilio’s Impact Fund, $1 million in Twilio and Twilio SendGrid product credits in addition to existing kickstart credit and discounted pricing, along with quick-to-deploy apps and tutorials like SMS-based vaccine registration and appointment scheduling, Twilio said.
Since rolling out a vaccine distribution option that lets providers send mass notifications about COVID-19 vaccines, create patient self-service experiences, and conduct health surveys (see related No Jitter article), “we made this commitment to scale up in a big way, especially around the world,” Erin Reilly, Twilio social impact officer, told me in a No Jitter briefing. “But also, it's really important that we make sure that the access to vaccines is equitable, too.” Toward that end, Twilio’s vaccine assistance program includes $10 million in grants from Twilio’s Impact Fund, $1 million in Twilio and Twilio SendGrid product credits in addition to existing kickstart credit and discounted pricing, along with quick-to-deploy apps and tutorials like SMS-based vaccine registration and appointment scheduling, Twilio said.
For patients seeking vaccinations, logistical challenges include determining eligibility, finding out how to get an appointment/getting reminded of that appointment, and figuring out how to sign up for a standby list in case extra vaccines become available. Among certain communities, another challenge is hesitancy to sign up due to myths surround the vaccine. Twilio aims to dispel the challenges by “getting the education out, and helping organizations who have the trust of their communities get that information out to their community members,” Reilly said.
As a use case example, Reilly spoke about St. Luke’s University Health Network in Fountain Hill, Pennsylvania.
St. Luke’s built its Shot-Line COVID-19 vaccine scheduling phone system, for English or Spanish speakers, in two weeks using Twilio’s platform, Reilly said. St. Luke’s uses this outbound-dialing system to call patients 75 and over who haven’t yet registered for their vaccinations; an automated voice recording helps them schedule a vaccine appointment within two to three minutes, and will then send out a confirmation text. Patients calling for vaccine appointments no longer need to wait for a live agent or a callback, Twilio said. Adding that what she finds “most exciting,” is the “type of results and impact on people's lives who need help most right now.”
Two things matter to Twilio regarding its support of equitable access globally, Reilly said. The first is being able to provide access to vaccines through SMS or the WhatsApp mobile messaging service, because these are “essential to people who don't have Internet access,” she said. And the second is that people have phone scheduling options, to “get connected in the way they're most used to,” Reilly said.
As a communications company, Twilio felt responsible for helping to solve the equity challenges around the vaccine’s rollout, Reilly said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure that life-saving solution is accessible to all.”