Partnership to streamline access to COVID-19 vaccines

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THE CITY OF CHICAGO Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is pictured above being vaccinated recently announced the action plan to provide access to the COVID-19 vaccine for residents. Lightfoot said the City is partnering with the online medical appointment booking service Zocdoc to help people identify and schedule appointments to receive a vaccine dose when it becomes available for their group.

The City of Chicago and Zocdoc, the leader in online healthcare scheduling, announced a partnership where Zocdoc will serve as the City’s main platform for eligible Chicago residents to find and book COVID-19 vaccinations. Zocdoc will aggregate real-time appointment availability from select Chicago POD (Point of Dispensing) sites, as well as from leading local care organizations such as AMITA Health, Erie Family Health, Innovative Express Care and Rush University Medical Center, creating a central marketplace to help Chicagoans more easily access vaccinations.

“Our goal in Chicago is to vaccinate as many residents as possible as fast as we can,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “While vaccine availability is still very limited nationwide, this exciting new partnership with Zocdoc is another step toward empowering individuals and families as we fight this disease and lean into the historic recovery that is sure to follow.”

“Zocdoc provides a great service that will help people access vaccines as the supply increases over the coming weeks and months, and Chicago residents can also sign up to be notified when new appointments become available,” said Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “We will still need people to be patient as the vaccine rollout continues, but we’re excited about this partnership as it provides Chicagoans another option to connect with providers as they receive more vaccine.”

Chicago is the first city to implement Zocdoc Vaccine Scheduler, a new service that any care organization or government entity can use – completely free of charge – to streamline vaccine scheduling. Chicagoans can visit zocdoc.com/vaccine, where they’ll confirm their location and eligibility. If eligible under Illinois guidelines, Zocdoc will show nearby vaccination locations and their real-time appointment availability. Eligible patients will then be able to select a date, time, and location, and instantly book an appointment online. Importantly, this service will offer embedded translation support for more than 100 languages, including Spanish. It also has a variety of accessibility tools that users can enable if they need additional support or modifications.

“We are honored to help fast-track vaccinations for the City of Chicago and its residents, and we commend Mayor Lightfoot and her team on their fast decision-making and speedy implementation,” said Oliver Kharraz, M.D., Zocdoc founder & CEO. “Just as the vaccines were developed in record speed thanks to public-private collaboration, so too should their rollout. This is a model for other cities to emulate because we just don’t have time for trial and error. Simplifying healthcare logistics is at the core of what Zocdoc has been doing for 13 years, and our team stands ready, willing, and able to help facilitate vaccinations for as many Americans as quickly as possible.”

Although the supply of vaccines is currently very limited, appointments will be added on an ongoing basis as more vaccines are allocated to providers. Additionally, the City and Zocdoc expect more local healthcare providers – including other hospital systems and Federally Qualified Health Centers – to join in this important effort. To this end, the Illinois Health and Hospital Association is encouraging its members to participate. Dr. Arwady notes that Chicagoans are encouraged to seek a vaccine appointment first with their primary care providers, if they have one, and also through local pharmacies or their employers, if available. But the Zocdoc Vaccine Scheduler will serve as a free, public resource for Chicagoans who otherwise might have difficulty finding and accessing a vaccine.

Leveraging its distinctive booking technology and experience facilitating millions of healthcare appointments, Zocdoc is offering its Vaccine Scheduler, free of charge, to any city, state, or large care organization as a public health service. Healthcare providers can integrate this new solution with their existing scheduling system, or they can use Zocdoc’s dedicated, web-based calendar to support online scheduling. This unique capability makes it possible for Zocdoc to aggregate and centrally surface available vaccine appointments to users in real-time, making them easily discoverable and instantly bookable online.

“Demand for the vaccine is understandably high, and it is essential that we have tools that make it easy for eligible patients to get it safely and efficiently,” said Paul Casey, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Rush University Medical System. “At Rush, we are focused on ensuring that no drop of vaccine is wasted or sitting on a shelf, and this collaboration furthers that objective by connecting our work with vaccination efforts across the City of Chicago. The Zocdoc platform provides a seamless way for those who are eligible to locate a vaccination site, including Rush University Medical Center.”

In addition to its new Vaccine Scheduler, Zocdoc recently rolled out a personalized vaccine tracking service, which distributes need-to-know information to consumers and helps provide answers to common questions. Over time, this service will become more actionable and help users nationwide easily develop a vaccine plan, including finding a nearby vaccination location and booking an appointment online.

Chicago continues to vaccinate individuals in phase 1a of the vaccine rollout – healthcare workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities – and recently moved into the early stages of 1b. This means Chicagoans age 65+ and specific groups of highest-risk and front-line essential workers are now eligible for vaccinations. Even when eligible, it may take weeks to get an appointment due to the very limited vaccine supply the City is receiving from the federal government at this time. Phase 1b is expected to last through at least February and March. The vaccine is offered at no cost to all Chicagoans who want it, but patience is needed while vaccine quantities increase.

For more information on Chicago’s vaccine rollout, visit www.chicago.gov/covidvax. To learn more about implementing Zocdoc Vaccine Scheduler, visit zocdoc.com/vaccine/provider.

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