There’s a lot of information about COVID-19 vaccine availability being circulated online, via social media sites, word-of-mouth and electronic channels such as email and texts. This abundance of information is leaving many people wondering where to turn for the most accurate data.
The CDC provides up-to-date guidance about vaccines. To find out when you can get vaccinated, first check your state’s Department of Health website for the current phase of vaccine distribution.
Federal and state governments as well as healthcare providers, drug store chains, non-profits and some businesses have set up text notification systems to inform individuals about vaccine availability. Once someone is eligible and has signed up to get the vaccine, organizations know that the fastest way to share information about their scheduling options or vaccine appointment details is with a text.
Using texts for vaccine appointment reminders
Once a COVID-19 vaccine appointment has been scheduled, a reminder text or email will be sent, depending on the individual’s preference, with details about their appointment date and time. The reminders are sent 24 hours before an appointment, giving the person time to reschedule if they have a conflict and can’t make it. This also allows time to offer the appointment timeslot to someone else.
Because texts have a 98% open rate, and most are read within 30 minutes, vaccine distribution sites are using SMS messages to ensure appointments are kept so doses don’t go to waste. There’s a limited amount of time a vaccine is usable once the vial is opened, so confirming attendance is important.
CDC offers a free text messaging platform for healthcare providers
To expedite vaccine distribution, the CDC is offering a free text alert system for healthcare providers. VaxText makes it easy for patients to opt in to conveniently receive text reminders to get their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The system offers the added benefit of reminding patients to sign up for v-safe, a tool that allows people to report adverse outcomes following vaccination.
The VaxText text messaging resource can be offered at no cost if an organization doesn’t have a text reminder system already in place. By texting ENROLL to 1-833-VaxText (829-8398), vaccine recipients can opt in to receive a weekly text reminder for their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine or a reminder for when they are overdue for it.
Healthcare portals use SMS to alert patients about vaccine availability
Many healthcare companies around the country are using their website patient portals to encourage patients to sign up for the vaccine. Once patients sign up, the company sends an electronic message when new appointments are available.
Patients can click a link in the message and find a spot in the system to get a vaccination appointment at various locations. Hartford HealthCare in Connecticut operates a website that allows residents to register for text messages about vaccine appointments. Besides making it easy to sign up, their goal is to reduce the stress and challenge of finding a vaccine for anyone over the age of 16.
Businesses join forces to send texts about vaccine appointments
The pandemic has challenged businesses in many ways, but it has also fostered collaboration between companies for the common good. A partnership between Twilio and Salesforce is one example.
The texting and CRM software tools work together to notify consumers by SMS. Using their software platforms in tandem ensures that more Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
Individuals who sign up will receive a text reminder to book an appointment as soon as they’re eligible. Once the patient has scheduled their first appointment, they’ll receive a text reminder 24 hours before their vaccination date to make sure they arrive on time.
After their first appointment, they’ll receive another text prompting them to schedule an appointment 3-4 weeks later to get their second dose. The patient will be sent a text daily until they’ve booked their second appointment, if needed, since some vaccines only require one dose.
Standby text alerts for last-minute vaccine appointments
Standby lists use texts to ensure vaccines don’t go unused. If appointments are missed or additional doses become available, text alerts can be sent to individuals on waiting lists. These folks may have appointments scheduled for a later date but signed up to be alerted about last-minute appointments.
After a COVID-19 vaccine vial is diluted or the first dose is drawn, providers have six hours before the remaining doses must be discarded. The timing has created scrambles at some vaccination sites where providers must rush to use the extra doses if someone cancels or doesn’t show up. Other times, a freezer may malfunction and doses that need to remain extremely cold must be used within hours.
More than half a million people have signed up on the Dr. B website that texts users based on their eligibility status when extra doses near their location are in jeopardy of going unused. Standby lists make it easy to text participants, even those who may not yet be eligible to schedule an appointment.
Recipients must be able to make it to the vaccination site within a short period of time to take advantage of the appointment. This high-speed alert system enables vaccine distribution sites around the country to get shots into more arms while preventing vaccines from going to waste.
Texts lead to faster responses about coronavirus testing and contact tracing
Organizations continue to use texts to notify individuals about known coronavirus cases. According to Zipwhip’s 2021 State of Texting report, 38% of businesses use texts to notify employees or customers of potential COVID-19 exposure. Sharing this vital information quickly is a key benefit of SMS. The speed of texting compared to emailing or calling means the recipient of the text can take extra safety precautions while waiting to get tested. The text can also share information about local testing sites.
When it’s time to arrive for a testing appointment, patients can wait in their vehicles and send a text to a specific number to check in. This virtual waiting room helps maintain social distancing before and after the test has been administered. As soon as the results are ready, a text is sent to inform the individual of their status and provide any additional information, if necessary.
How to avoid scams relating to COVID-19 vaccines
The FTC has been warning the public and sharing how to avoid coronavirus scams. Some consumers have received fraudulent emails or text messages about COVID-19 vaccines. The messages range from instructing the recipient to click a link that could install malware on their device, requesting personal or financial information or promising prizes in exchange for providing sensitive information.
Reputable vaccine organizations will never engage in these practices. This article on 5 ways to identify a text scam provides more details on protecting yourself from smishing, the text equivalent of a phishing expedition. You can also read about how Zipwhip’s business texting platform connects directly to Tier 1 and Tier 2 wireless carrier networks, so texts are sent and stored securely with industry-leading anti-spam safeguards.
More COVID-19 texting resources from Zipwhip
Businesses across the country are still being impacted by measures being taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 and its new variants. As you make changes to your business’s strategy, we want to help you update your customers and employees through the most effective communication channel — texting.
We’ve created content to help businesses communicate with their customers during the pandemic. For the complete list of blog posts, podcasts and videos, visit our COVID-19 Resource Page.
To learn more about us, see how Zipwhip works. Then download our free e-book: The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers. It includes everything from choosing the right provider to staying TCPA compliant, practicing good texting etiquette and more.