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Health and Safety

Beating COVID-19: Why Cross-Sector Collaboration is Critical to Public Health

Dr. Ash

We continue to make progress in the fight against COVID-19, but even when we complete this historic mass vaccination campaign, things won’t go back to the way they were. We are facing a new normal. The pandemic has revealed the crucial role that multi-stakeholder collaboration – between governments, companies, and other organizations – has to play in addressing challenges of this scale, and the power of technology to enable and accelerate that collaboration.

I have been humbled by the collaborative innovation that is happening around COVID vaccines. Scientists around the globe have collaborated in unprecedented ways to deliver multiple vaccines in record-breaking time. We’re now administering two million doses a day in the United States. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is using our technology to equitably distribute vaccines to two billion people by the end of 2021.

We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, with multiple effective vaccines in distribution, new therapeutics and continued social distancing and mask wearing. However, we’ve learned data fragmentation slows down our ability to collaborate and have an agile public health response. When it comes to our vaccination efforts, we can’t operate in silos —- the virus has no boundaries.

Vaccine distribution at a mass scale requires strong partnerships across local, state, federal, international and global organizations. Today, more than 150 federal, state, local, and private health organizations are using Salesforce to manage their response to the pandemic—cities like Austin, Chicago and New York City; states like California and New Hampshire; and government agencies in Canada and many other countries. We developed Vaccine Cloud to help cities, states and countries scale-up vaccine operations including managing supply chain logistics, appointment scheduling, tools to understand vaccination rates, track inventory, watch outcomes, and communication with the public. 

As global COVID-19 vaccination campaigns accelerate, supporting the ‘last mile’ of the vaccination journey is a critical step. Technology can play a key role here, but it’s critical this work is done thoughtfully, making sure we do not widen existing inequities. We need to invest in the right types of resources for adapting to living in a pandemic world and for the next major global crisis. At Salesforce, we are not alone in the belief that a digital ID should be “Good ID.” That it should be, among other things, established with individual consent, while protecting individuals’ privacy and ensuring control over personal data. As vaccines move through priority groups, there will need to be a way for people to demonstrate health status as we start to resume in-person gatherings. That is why we are participating on the ID2020 Good Health Pass Collaborative steering committee — a cross-sector initiative working to create guidelines for interoperable digital health pass systems that prioritize privacy and security of personal data.

Vaccine distribution is just one domain where technology has enabled greater collaboration across public and private sectors. The pandemic will have a lasting impact on how we engage, whether that’s grocery shopping on an app or meeting your doctor for a virtual visit. In healthcare and life sciences, new habits and expectations (e.g. telehealth) have created newly empowered digital consumers of health. Collaborative technologies that can put the right data in front of the right people at the right time will be critical. 

The pandemic has underscored the importance of agility in public health, with technology and collaboration being not nice-to-haves but must-haves. That’s not going away any time soon. There’s clear relevance for a single hub enabling faster decision making in our post-pandemic world where vaccinations, testing and contact tracing, and working from anywhere are the new norm. We can use these lessons that highlight the value of collaboration, technology, and data as a template for future health crises and as we adapt to our future world. 

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