COVID-19 Response: Software Solutions Enable Vaccine Research, Security, Safe Distribution

From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, software-enabled technologies have been helping researchers surge ahead of expectations in vaccine development.

Now, with multiple vaccines being approved by governments around the world, the race is on to quickly and safely distribute the medicines in order to allow countries to reduce the spread of COVID, lift pandemic-related restrictions, and reopen their economies.

The information below captures how Software.org supporting companies – including IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce – are helping find solutions and bring an end to the pandemic.

Early intervention helps speed solutions

  • By tapping into the power of IBM’s Watson Artificial Intelligence technology, health researchers were able dramatically speed up development of vaccines and therapeutic solutions from the early days of the pandemic. “What would have taken weeks to model and run in a standard and traditional computing environment can literally be done in minutes,” a representative said. “You can get months’ worth of modeling and work done in the course of a day.” Early in 2020, IBM deployed Watson technology to hundreds of universities, companies, and medical organizations such as the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic.
  • As health researchers moved quickly to develop and test vaccines in the summer of 2020, Oracle helped connect experts with thousands of potential clinical trial volunteers. The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) launched a cloud-based volunteer screening registration tool, running on Oracle infrastructure, that helped identify and register volunteers. In less than a week after launching, more than 100,000 people signed up using the tool.
  • The COVID-19 High Performance Computing (HPC) Consortium, which includes Microsoft and IBM, launched in March as a public-private partnership to provide computing and software capabilities to researches focusing on COVID-19 related projects. In November 2020, the consortium entered a new phase “focused on helping researchers to identify potential near-term therapies for patients afflicted by the virus.”

Cybersecurity solutions protect COVID research and vaccine supply chain

  • Microsoft has been working to detect cyberattacks targeting companies developing COVID-19 vaccine research and treatment. In November 2020, Microsoft announced that it had detected various of such attacks and that it is coordinating efforts with private and public sector globally to mitigate the effect of such attacks. In connection with the announcement Microsoft made AccountGuard, its threat notification service, available to health care and human rights organizations working on COVID-19.
  • IBM created a threat intelligence task force to monitor and stop COVID-19 cyber-attacks. In early December 2020, IBM research revealed that certain parts of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution were being targeted by a cyber-attack using a precision phishing campaign. IBM promptly notified the appropriate entities and authorities so action could be taken to address the issue.

Technology helps track, trace, schedule vaccine distribution

  • In May 2020, Microsoft and FedEx announced a collaboration to create FedEx Surround, a toll designed to leverage machine learning and data analytics to monitor shipments and predict disruptions. This tool is being leveraged to assist vaccine delivery globally. Microsoft explains that “FedEx Surround Surround uses real-time data from SenseAware ID and other sources to provide more intelligence—scan data that follows the package’s journey, historical data around FedEx’s routes, external data like weather and mapping, and other factors. It brings all that intelligence together with Azure machine learning and analytics capabilities to interpret conditions about the package and predict risks so FedEx can intercept a shipment before it encounters a problem.”
  • Salesforce announced Work.com for Vaccines, a tool to help governments and healthcare organizations more safely and efficiently manage vaccine programs at scale. With Work.com for Vaccines, Salesforce customers can design, build, integrate and manage their vaccine programs end-to-end, with a platform that is trusted, flexible and can be deployed quickly.
  • IBM has made a highly-adaptable, open platform available to facilitate the delivery of vaccines to people across the planet. By bringing the power of blockchain, data and AI, security, and hybrid cloud together, IBM helps the public and private sectors speed medicines from production facilities to doctors’ offices in an efficient, trusted, and equitable way.
  • IBM Blockchain enables trusted vaccine distribution, giving manufacturers, distributers, and dispensers the tools they need to roll out COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Microsoft and its partners are actively working with customers to deploy vaccine management solutions that enable registration capabilities for patients and providers, phased scheduling for vaccinations, streamlined reporting, and management dashboarding with analytics and forecasting. These offerings are helping public health agencies and healthcare providers to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals in an efficient, equitable and safe manner.
  • Microsoft worked with the Oklahoma State Department of Health on an app that tells people if when they are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and allows them to make an appointment to receive the vaccine.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) uses Oracle’s National Electronic Health Records Cloud and Oracle’s Public Health Management Applications Suite to manage the COVID-19 vaccination program throughout the United States. The Oracle Public Health Management Applications Suite includes applications for managing the entire vaccination process from ordering the vaccine, tracking shipments and managing inventory—to directly communicating with vaccinated patients via smart phones to collect safety data such as side effects and adverse events.
  • Salesforce announced that more than 15 international, federal, state and local agencies, including the State of New Hampshire and the City of Chicago, are using the Salesforce Platform and Work.com for Vaccines to help schedule vaccination appointments and manage their COVID-19 vaccine programs including vaccine inventory management and administration, notifications, outcome monitoring, and more.
  • Salesforce and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, announced in December 2020 that they will collaborate to help Gavi manage critical information, allowing the equitable distribution of approximately two billion COVID-19 vaccines to 190 countries by the end of 2021.

Looking ahead, vaccine verification will ensure safe interactions

  • IBM and Salesforce announced a partnership to allow individuals to share their vaccination and health status through a single hub that will integrate IBM’s Health Pass and Salesforce’s Work.com, in a secure and privacy-compliant manner. IBM explains that its blockchain-based Digital Health Pass, available through Salesforce.com, “is designed to enable organizations to verify health credentials for individuals entering their site based on criteria specified by the organization, such as test results, vaccination records and temperature checks. Privacy is central to the solution. The digital wallet can enable individuals to maintain control of their health information, without exposing the underlying personal data used to generate the pass.”