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A SHOT IN THE ARM FOR THE INDIAN COVID-19 IMMUNIZATION MANDATE – TCS VACCINATION LEAGUE

 

At the height of the sweltering summer of 2021 in India, there was only one thing at the top of this writer’s mind – how to find and book a COVID-19 vaccination slot as soon as possible. After a few days of playing fastest-fingers-first with publicly available vaccination registration systems, we received an internal email about a company-wide vaccine registration drive. Reader, we signed up immediately.

In just a few clicks, we had validated our credentials and selected the vaccination center closest to us. Within a day or two, we received a confirmation regarding our registration and a date-and-time slot to get the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. And that is how, less than a month since nation-wide vaccine mandates for those in the 18-45-year category were announced in India, we reached home one balmy weekday with a slightly sore arm and a partially vaccinated status.

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A league of its own

The magic of the mammoth mass vaccination program run by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in India is in its details: the way the vaccination process encountered by an audience of one – yours truly – was replicated at scale for a workforce comprising hundreds of thousands of people. Given the critical nature of this project in the light of rapid infections, hospitalizations, and fatalities, TCS had to quickly come up with a plan to deploy its vast infrastructure to cover as many COVID-19 vaccinations as possible for its India employees (including contractual and support staff) as well as their families.

The resultant corporate vaccination drive – called the TCS Vaccination League – was designed to provide a seamless experience for everyone while ensuring data security and privacy throughout the process. This started right from registration via an intuitive digital platform, where those interested in availing the benefits were tracked in advance so that vaccine doses could be utilized without any wastage. A dedicated communication campaign over email, IVRS, and push notifications was also rolled out to address vaccine hesitancy and the inevitable queries that accompany a sea change of this sort. 

The next step was a little daunting – how do we get the actual vaccination centers ready in time for rollout? Well, a cross-functional team featuring our leadership, HR associates, internal IT teams, and local administration staff set up partnerships with hospitals across India to deliver the vaccinations. This team also liaised with state governments and local municipal authorities to establish COVID-19 vaccination centers (CVCs) at TCS campuses in collaboration with hospital partners.

 

Back to office – but with a difference

Here’s a play-by-play of our experience at one such CVC. Having informed the local admin team of a situational disability that we were undergoing, we were met at the lobby of our local TCS campus by an attendant with a wheelchair. From there, we were whisked past the socially distanced seating arrangements at an expansive office space on premises directly to one of the registration counters, where our credentials were validated. Next was a quick check-up for symptoms or comorbidities by a doctor, who also calmly explained the vaccination process and post-vaccination recovery matrix to us.

After document verification against the national vaccination database Cowin, we were taken to one of the nursing stations, where partner hospital staff explained the vaccination process again and gave us the much-needed shot in the arm. A little bit of unintentional wincing on our part later, we were directed to the waiting area, where everyone was monitored for 30 minutes for any post-shot symptoms and offered water and refreshments. At each step, common touchpoints were promptly and thoroughly sanitized. 

The efforts put in by multiple TCS teams ensured that the overall waiting time was as little as possible, and there was enough space – and clearly demarcated areas – to enforce proper social distancing measures. For the elderly dependents of our employees, there was also the option of getting vaccinated within the safe confines of their cars, thereby reducing exposure to busy or unfamiliar surroundings. With many employees working from their hometowns in TCS SBWS™ mode, the same process was replicated at those locations with the help of partner health centers.

 

 

 

 

“THROUGH THE TCS VACCINATION LEAGUE, WE ENSURED THAT OUR ASSOCIATES AND DEPENDENTS GOT ACCESS TO COVID-19 VACCINATIONS IN A SAFE AND HYGIENIC ENVIRONMENT IN A MASSIVE EXERCISE SPANNING ACROSS THE METROS AND TIER 2/3 CITIES ACROSS INDIA,” SAYS MILIND LAKKAD, EVP AND CHRO, TCS

 

 
 
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Some behind-the-scenes magic

At the back end, this massive corporate vaccination drive was built on top of a process management solution engineered by TCS’ corporate IT unit, Ultimatix. This team leveraged several internal applications to address the complexities associated with CVC management, dose preservation, and concurrent scheduling during the vaccination drive. All this was enforced keeping in mind guidelines issued by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19.

The Ultimatix team took the vaccination solution from idea to launch in less than a week’s time, with Android and iOS mobile applications in place to aid deployment. A simple three-step process addressed common pain points that employees might have faced while trying to register for vaccines elsewhere. All this together ensured that over 480,000 registrations were completed within a month of the solution’s inception. 

Then came an indigenous smart algorithm that filtered heaps of data through criteria such as gaps between doses, vaccine type administered, age and comorbidity status, number of dependents, and previous/current COVID-19 symptoms in order to automatically schedule the first and second vaccination doses for employees and their dependents. This helped prevent medical complications and ensured the optimum use of the vaccine doses. In addition, the scheduling process took care of business continuity by booking different slots for employees hailing from the same projects. 

The possibilities are endless

The smart algorithm makes it easy for the system to send personalized updates and reminders by email, text messages, or push notifications to all registered persons. Which is how during a rainy Mumbai evening – exactly 84 government-mandated days after our first vaccine dose – we came to know that we were up for our next one. Another day, another smooth-as-butter vaccination process later, we were ready to face the world as a double-vaccinated responsible member of society.

At the back end, this smart algorithm helps the TCS Vaccination League team gather relevant data about the number of appointments executed as well as upcoming appointments in order to gain strategic insights and help plan vaccinations seamlessly. It captures COVID-19 infection-related information and recalculates the vaccination dates basis the infection status of the employee or dependent. The solution also considers first/second doses that might have been taken outside of the TCS ecosystem while scheduling future vaccinations.

Thanks to its segregation capabilities, this same solution was easily deployed at other TATA group companies without compromising their data. A rule-based secure access management mechanism also ensures data privacy by limiting access to a certain set of users. This social innovation received a silver commendation at the 2021 Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Technology Awards under the category ‘Best Advance for Leading Under a Crisis’. Plans are now on to scale this veritable booster shot to other geographies based on their business and regulatory needs.