Learning by Doing: Local Stories from SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic Vaccination Planning


  • J.A. Whiteside Indiana University School of Medicine
  • B.P. Niebuhr Indiana University School of Medicine


Aim: Attempts to end the COVID-19 pandemic focus on rapid manufacture, procurement, and distribution of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to states. However, little work has been reported regarding local implementation and planning for providing vaccinations—despite the critical role state and local implementation strategies have played in previous mass vaccination campaigns as well as early mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic. We therefore assessed state and local efforts of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine planning in Indiana. Subject and Methods: Four semi-structured interviews were conducted with representatives of the Indiana Department of Health and three Indiana county health departments in the earliest stages of the COVID-19 pandemic: between July and August of 2020. Results: Common themes extracted from the interviews identified several strategies based on published evidence and previous local experience, including early advanced planning with stakeholders, flexibility, leveraging strategic partners, and demographic and geographic surveillance of vaccine uptake. Conclusion: While there is no one-size fits-all approach for a successful vaccination campaign, there are evidence-based approaches that should be co-developed and shared among local health departments. This study adds important local narratives
of a vital, yet disproportionately understudied area of vaccine delivery: traversing “the last mile” before vaccine administration. Further qualitative and quantitative studies directed at local practices during the COVID-19 pandemic are critical to developing best practices in, and lessons learned from, community immunization.