Improve your Covid Vaccine Rollout by Addressing These Resident Pain Points

Noam Rabinovich

Noam Rabinovich

Data Analyst

As a data analyst at Zencity, I’ve spent the past two months studying resident feedback from across the United States – in communities large and small – on how vaccines are being locally distributed. The vaccination distribution strategies run the gamut from mass vaccination centers to drive-thrus; on a first-come-first-serve basis or by-appointment-only; via registration by phone or by website.

Although distribution operations vary, what I have consistently seen in the data is a few very specific pain-points, voiced directly by citizens. Despite the wide-variety of approaches, there are some common themes of what isn’t working well in vaccination distribution.

What follows are four, strategy-agnostic pain points we identified in our data that have helped local leaders better understand their communities’ response to their vaccine rollout efforts, and as a result, streamline their efforts to be even more effective.

Want to know what your residents’ biggest pain-points are regarding your vaccine distribution strategy? Let Zencity help

1. Making a vaccine appointment is a challenge for residents - be it online or by phone - so the more ways you can offer vaccine sign ups, the better

The biggest pain-point seen in our data is around navigating registration systems and securing vaccine appointments. Residents have reported a host of technical issues with online registration and appointment scheduling systems, and also noted that online registration was challenging for senior citizens or people without internet access. 

In cities and counties where a call center was opened, residents complained about not being able to get through and noted that a website was more efficient. 

The feedback shows that there is no perfect registration method. Residents are split in their preferences, with some feeling more comfortable online and others (mostly the elderly) preferring to book by phone. 

In either case, the most common complaint was that the system became overwhelmed and malfunctioned due to high demand. 

The pain-point: 

Technical difficulties with various registration systems, exacerbated by high demand. Some residents expressed concern that having only one method of registration excludes certain groups (including those most in need) from successfully registering. 

What can be done? 

  • Multiple registration methods allow more flexibility for residents’ preferences and capabilities, and may also help with alleviating pressure on the system.
  • Specifying eligibility criteria (like age, occupation, zip code, etc.) may help limit the number of people attempting to schedule appointments and dissuade non-eligible individuals from burdening the system.

2. Residents signing up for vaccines are left wondering if their registration went through, so either confirm appointments or let people know not to expect a confirmation

Counties in Oklahoma, North Carolina, Florida, and Mississippi have all experienced a similar issue: residents were finally able to navigate the appointment scheduling system but then complained that they didn’t receive any kind of confirmation text or email. The result? Further burdening the system to try to get that confirmation.

The pain-point:

No confirmation after scheduling an appointment.

What can be done?

  • There are many technologies that can automate email or text confirmation alerts for those still working on shaping an appointment system.
  • If your city or county has already decided you won’t be sending out confirmations, providing a clear explanation on official channels that no confirmation should be expected and that this does not mean the registration was unsuccessful can preempt confused residents.

3. Residents want to keep updated and be notified about available vaccine slots, but they’re confused about how to do so, especially on Facebook

The above two concerns both relate to making appointments but one hurdle that must be overcome is helping residents understand how and when appointments are available in the first place. Information about the vaccine distribution process is everywhere – on official, government-run channels and on unofficial, non-government managed sources alike. Attempts to keep residents updated about when and how they can get vaccinated are proving to be a source of frustration.

One Oklahoma county invited residents to “follow” its Facebook page for updates about available vaccines slots. Instead of making sure they follow the County’s Facebook Page for all future notifications and updates, residents mistakenly flooded the post itself with comments saying “following.”

In a Texas county, residents complained that the County’s social media posts about open vaccination clinics were too easy to miss on their Facebook feeds. Residents asked for the County to create Facebook events for easier tracking and notifications.

The pain-point:

Facebook is a great way to meet residents where they’re at and utilize a platform they’re already on but local governments need to go one step further. Residents turn to social media for notifications and updates about vaccinations, but technological proficiency and the quick pace of social media feeds make it difficult for residents – both the tech-savvy and the less techie folks as well – to feel confident they are getting new information when it’s made available.

What can be done?

  • Provide very specific instructions on how to follow a Facebook page or any other steps that residents need to take to get information.
  • Ensure notifications from Facebook pages are prioritized and pinned.
  • Try using Facebook events instead of posts so that all of the dedicated information about vaccine logistics is in one place and doesn’t get buried in a more general page feed.
  • Overpost – keep the information coming with ongoing and repeated updates (posts and comments alike).

4. Residents are complaining about how accessible and equitable certain vaccination sites are, and are also expressing trepidation about waiting in line

We know local governments are doing their best with quickly setting up mass vaccination operations but unfortunately, there are some things that are being overlooked. In many cities and counties, residents noted long lines and prolonged standing as potential spreaders for COVID19 and as difficult for the elderly, disabled and immuno-compromised to handle. They also require a time investment not everyone can literally afford.

In other cities, after receiving information about available vaccines and successfully registering, residents were dismayed to find out just how inaccessible vaccination sites are. For example in one major city, high negative sentiment was generated by the fact that its main vaccination site was virtually inaccessible by public transportation.

The pain-point:

The accessibility of vaccines is a major concern for residents and plays out both in the physical location of vaccination sites and the ability of residents to stand in long lines in order to get vaccinated. In big cities especially, access to the vaccination site and the convenience of getting there are major factors for consideration.

What can be done?

  • Diversify the locations of vaccination sites and allow access by bicycles, micro-mobility and public transportation.
  • Increased reliance on scheduled appointments rather than a first-come-first-serve basis to mitigate long waiting times.
  • If you do have long-lines, chairs for those less able to stand.
  • Use volunteers or paid staff (in many cases, residents suggested paying unemployed people to monitor the lines) to ensure that social distancing and precautions are taken.

While there is no single “right” way to go about the immense challenge of vaccinating Americans, the insights that we can garner from resident feedback data have already proven to be instrumental in supporting local leaders in their operations. City and county managers have used data insights to successfully adapt their communication and implementation strategies. In addition, tapping into feedback enables them to harness the power of their community members – those who are on the receiving end of vaccines. Many of my suggestions in this post came directly from the resident feedback I’ve been lucky to have access to, as well as from our work at Zencity supporting hundreds of communities in their vaccination operations. Whatever strategy your local government entity adopts – we recommend keeping your ear to the ground and some level of flexibility so that we can move on the next phase of this pandemic – recovery.

Find out how Zencity can help your city or county in its vaccine distribution.

State of Confusion: Talks of Reopening the Economy Raise Questions and Objections in Georgia and Texas

Noam Rabinovich

Noam Rabinovich

Data Analyst

Co-Author: Michaela Sokol

The majority of the American population is currently under a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order due to COVID-19. However, as a result of the economic impact from coronavirus, some states are beginning to discuss and implement the prospect of reopening the economy and easing restrictions, making way for “the new normal”. There are a few states spearheading this initiative; Texas Governor Abbott was the first to begin discussing the reopening of the state’s economy on April 17, followed by Georgia’s Governor Kemp, who started easing restrictions on April 24. But what exactly does “reopening” entail and how will this affect people’s everyday lives? These are questions many citizens have been asking. With these new laws bringing about a wave of confusion, clear and concise communication between residents and community leaders is of the utmost importance. 

Zencity analyzed 533,981 interactions in 19 cities in Texas and Georgia over the period of April 12-25, as state heads began announcing reopening their states in the wake of coronavirus. We were able to conclude the following: 

Reopening Generates Higher Negative Sentiment than Positive


In both Texas and Georgia, of those residents who had a clear position either in favor or against reopening, there was a preference for not reopening at this time (higher negative sentiment reflecting opposition to the decision to reopen and ease restrictions). At the time of both Texas and Georgia’s reopening announcements, there were those who opposed the Shelter at Home orders and called to reopen the economy, mostly motivated by the belief that the economic toll would be worse than the public health impact. On the other hand, counter-protesters advocated staying at home and maintaining the restrictions, showing a divide in residents’ attitudes towards the motion.

Negative sentiment reflects a belief that it is too soon to reopen. Many are concerned that the decision is driven by the prioritization of political or economic motives above saving lives and as a result, COVID-19 cases and deaths will surge. Many commenters expressed anger about this decision coming at a stage where numbers are still rising, especially given the absence of wide scale testing.

Ultimately, of those who had an opinion on the matter, negative sentiment was clearly greater than that of positive. However, and most notably, the bulk of residents felt neutral towards reopening. The general consensus being that it is not mandatory but instead, a choice offered to individuals and businesses on whether to reopen or go out, leaving others free to stay home if they feel unsafe. 

Residents Express Confusion About Specific Aspects of Reopening

Texas and Georgia, being the states spearheading the “reopening” movement, demonstrate interesting takeaways about residents’ main concerns and areas of confusion. When looking at the discourse as a whole, most of the discussions consisted of questions regarding specific aspects of the new guidelines.

  • Many residents struggled to understand whether new guidelines revoke current guidelines, especially as they relate to schools, parks and various businesses.
  • Parks have remained a central issue in the comments about reopening guidelines, with people expressing confusion at the fact that while masks are required in parks, they are not mandatory in grocery stores. 
  • In regards to schools, the main issue that arose was whether the decision to keep schools closed for the duration of the school year means that remote learning will also stop.
  • Another issue of concern was the ability of businesses to open while still complying with social distancing regulations. This was especially pertinent with respect to beauty salons and barbershop

Mayors Play a Vital Role in the Reopening Conversation

In cities where mayors spoke out about the state-wide orders, the issue accounted for a higher share of the discourse, and gained traction following the Mayors’ posts on this issue. In these cities discourse on reopening reaches about 14% of coronavirus-related discourse, compared to only 3% in cities where the mayors did not post about reopening. This shows the power city leadership holds in  making state-level discussions more accessible to residents

  • This engagement was substantial and integral to the success of the reopening process, as it consisted of specific concerns raised by residents about reopening and concrete questions about various elements of the new guidelines, conversations that usually can’t happen as effectively on a state-level.
  • With the decisions currently being made on a state-wide basis, it is still unclear for many residents if and how they will be adopted and implemented on a county and city basis, meaning the discussion on reopening is more theoretical. It is incumbent upon the city leadership to make state-level discussion accessible to residents, who look to the city for this information rather than their state capital, and to create city platforms to voice concerns about reopening and ask questions about the new guidelines.

TLDR: Reopening Calls for Clear Communicative Efforts by Local Govs

  • As discussions on reopening take place on a state-level, residents show greater and more substantial engagement on this issue when their mayor posts or refers to this issue. Proving, it is on local governments to clearly and effectively relay updates to their residents, ensuring they feel secure entering this “new normal”
  • The new guidelines or changes to existing regulations reveal certain areas in which residents express confusion, specifically as it pertains to the operations of schools, businesses and parks. 
  • Sentiment on reopening reflects wariness and concern about opening too soon and relaxing social distancing regulations and the possible toll on the public’s health.
  • Issuing clarifications and creating city platforms for residents to ask questions and engage with local authority, could ease residents’ concerns and ensure that compliance is maintained despite the easings. 

As local governments continue to face new coronavirus related challenges, Zencity is here to support them every step of the way. See how we are helping local governments bolster their crisis communication efforts and enhance their overall emergency response with our Coronavirus Action Plan.