COVID-19 Vaccine Communication and Registration Support for Local Governments

Written by Jessica Marabella

Encrypted forms, automation solutions, and communication best practices for local governments.
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After months of fear, stay-at-home orders, and millions of lost lives, our world is finally turning with hope to the potential abatement of the deadly coronavirus. That hope comes in the form of a vaccine being rapidly produced, distributed, and administered to those in desperate need. With the prospect of mass vaccination comes new challenges for federal agencies, states, and municipalities: how to effectively triage vaccination dissemination, and keep citizens informed about the availability of the shot in their area, and when they should expect to be eligible for receipt.

CivicPlus® remains committed to supporting local governments and their essential workers in this next phase of our nation’s COVID-19 response. We offer several integrated solutions to help local governments proactively keep citizens informed about vaccine availability in their community, accept and respond to citizen inquiries, book vaccination appointments, and secure citizen protected health information (PHI). As your administration adapts its vaccination communication and operation strategies, we encourage you to follow these best practices.

This article outlines best practices for:

Proactive Multi-Channel Citizen Communications

COVID-19 affects every citizen in your community, which means you need to leverage every possible communication channel to keep your citizens informed about the ongoing virus risks, community mandates and restrictions, testing center locations, and vaccine availability. Use the following communication channels for maximum reach and impact:

A continually updated, mobile-responsive COVID-19, and vaccination resources web page. Link to it from a primary homepage graphic or pop-up modal for ease of access. CivicEngage® website users may also choose to add an Alert Center notification bar to the top of their website for quick citizen access.

Use your dedicated resource page as your central hub for all pandemic-related information and point all other communications, including social media, emails, and alert notifications, to your web page. Ensure you are providing all updates on your webpage, not as links to PDF press release statements from your elected official’s office or health department, to ensure all content is consumable by assistive technology for those living with a visual, auditory, or physical disability.

If you don’t yet have a dedicated web page or portal dedicated to COVID-19 information, CivicPlus can support you with a rapid implementation process.

“Thanks to CivicPlus, within a matter of hours, we were able to develop a web presence for COVID-19. I am very grateful to our content editor for her experience and CivicPlus for having this resource available, particularly at this very difficult time.”

– Ann Tennes, Skokie, Illinois Director of Marketing and Communications

Direct members of the media to your vaccination web page for updates and vaccine dissemination details. Provide the specific link to your vaccination page to news outlets to minimize public communication staff outreach and requests for comment.

Send proactive alerts and updates using a multi-channel mass notification system. Such technology allows for reach by voice, text message, push notification, and email. Our CivicReady® mass notification solution is capable of automatically translating text notifications in up to 60 different languages to ensure every member of your population, including non-English speaking citizens, has the information they need to stay safe and receive a vaccine.

Search engine optimize your COVID-19 webpage with vaccination keyword terms and metadata. Many citizens will start their search for COVID-19 vaccination options from a desktop or mobile search engine. Ensure your vaccination page is designed for optimal search engine results so that your citizens find reliable, trusted information from their local leaders.

At CivicPlus, all our CivicEngage websites are designed to be optimized for search engines, and we offer training for content managers to boost search engine results further.

Create a detailed COVID-19 vaccine frequently asked questions (FAQ) page. By proactively providing answers to common questions, you can mitigate the number of emails, phone calls, and inquiry form submissions your staff are manually fielding and provide an easy source for your citizens to find information.

Encourage citizens to sign up for notifications through their preferred communication channel. Whether you use a notification tool built into your website, such as our CivicEngage Notify Me® feature, or a citizen mass notification solution such as CivicReady, but giving citizens a way to sign up for alerts from their local government, you exponentially increase their consumption of messages and their impact.

Utilize social media for maximum reach. According to a Gallup poll, 70 percent of people find public officials’ posts about the coronavirus situation helpful. Share updates about vaccine availability from your primary municipal profiles and those of your elected officials to ensure citizens receive social updates from the local leaders they trust. Be sure to include a link to your COVID-19 and vaccine resources page. Our CivicEngage solution allows for automated social media posting of blog and page updates to expedite message reach with fewer content management steps. If you are a current CivicEngage user, visit our Help Center for social media integration set-up instructions.

 Automated Customer Service and Citizen Inquiry Response

Citizens desperate for information about the vaccine’s availability are contacting their local governments, and county health departments en masse and faster than administrations that have suffered staff and budget cuts can manually address. Ensure that you are posting updated information about the availability of the vaccine and the process to make an appointment prominently on your website and that you have automated customer service tools to help you respond to individual citizen inquiries.

Solution Options: Chatbots and Smart Forms

Chatbots designed with artificial intelligence can automate responses to common citizen inquiries, such as, “How can I find a COVID-19 testing location?” or “When can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?” In this way, citizens can be immediately directed to relevant information on your website any time of the day or night, from any device, without manual staff intervention. Our CivicPlus Chatbot users see over 50 percent of all citizen inquiries answered on average by their personalized local government chatbot, freeing-up staff time for other strategic project management.

Smart forms can also provide automated rapid response to vaccine-related inquiries while collecting a wide range of submissions. Our CivicOptimize® Productivity solution offers smart forms and automation tools so that administrators can configure automatically tailored responses to common inquiries. Communities are using Productivity to analyze contact tracing forms to notify citizens who have potentially been exposed to the vaccine to encourage self-isolation with the hope of further mitigating virus spread. They are also using Productivity to review and sort vaccine registrations by priority tiers to keep citizens notified of estimated vaccine receipt timing. Click here for more information on CivicOptimize Productivity’s automation capabilities. 

Receiving and Storing Citizen PHI

If you are using your local government website or a COVID-19 citizen portal to book vaccine appointments or collect any other personally identifiable protected health information (PHI), ensure you utilize an encrypted form.

Encryption is the process of modifying information such that it is unreadable by anyone except those possessing a digital translation key that allows the user to change the information back to its original, readable form. Data encryption allows entities to securely protect data from cyber hackers and extortionists who could steal and use it for nefarious purposes or financial gain. Every entity that accepts user data through a digital interface, such as an online form, has a responsibility to protect their information. This requirement is particularly essential when the transmitted data reflects personally identifiable data, such as a credit card number, driver’s license number, or social security number that, if stolen, could be used for identity theft. Read more about encrypted forms here.

If you are a current CivicEngage user, visit our Help Center for more information about:

Our CivicEngage website solution and our CivicOptimize Productivity mobile app and form development software offer encrypted form capabilities to ensure you are safeguarding citizen data.

Supporting Our Local Government Difference-Makers

If you are working to implement these technology-based best practices, you may be eligible to use available CARES Act funds. We are proud to have supported over 200 local governments in implementing critical technology to support their ongoing COVID-19 administrative response using CARES Act funds. Whether you have CARES Act funding at your disposal or not, and whether you are an existing member of our #CPfamily, or in need of a reliable solution partner, CivicPlus is here to help you with a rapid implementation that fits your budget. Click here to have a member of our solution team contact you to discuss how our solutions can support your COVID-19 vaccination communications and citizen data security.