Plan Your Vaccine was a personalized, interactive digital app that gave Americans trusted information about planning their Covid-19 vaccination for every state and U.S. territory in one place. A team of editors, developers, researchers and designers gathered firsthand information, from requirements by state to locations where the vaccine was being administered, and an option to sign up to receive alerts as changes to eligibility and more changed. After collecting users’ locations, essential groups and ages, the app provided customized information.
The page was built in English, Spanish and Mandarin to reach as many readers as possible with real-time information about how to get the vaccine at a time when messages from the government were confusing. At launch, our tool was the only national-scale site of its kind. More than 7 million people got their vaccine information from Plan Your Vaccine, with a reach of 1.6 Billion from broadcast segments. Through social media platforms, we reached 481 million people. More than 120 anchors, correspondents and talent from the larger NBC Universal group shared the tool in more than 10 languages to millions of viewers.
Not only was Plan Your Vaccine prominent across digital platforms, but it could be seen on Sunday Night Football, on the Today Show plaza, Telemundo studios, at the Golden Globes, Indy500 and more. Additionally, we worked with the Comcast NBCUniversal Campus Ambassador Program to partner with college students across 52 campuses to post about the tool on social media. Nearly 60,000 people engaged with these organic posts. Media organizations from Bloomberg and Yahoo to People and AdWeek recognized the site for its maximized reach and quick updates. We received inquiries from Google and the White House about how we were able to organize all of the recent locations for our map portion of the tool and potential partnerships.
The biggest impact, however, was the impact on everyday people who were struggling to get information about the vaccine for themselves, their parents and grandparents. We received emails and messages from people across the country telling us that by using Plan Your Vaccine they were able to find out exactly when they would be eligible, how to get an appointment and more.
What was the hardest part of this project?
At the start of this project in January 2021, there was virtually no concrete data on a national scale about how to get the vaccine. We wanted to build a place where you could jump from all the information in your state that met your eligibility to another state (let’s say, your moms) without opening new tabs and searching on another state’s website which might have had outdated data. The CDC changed their eligibility guidelines dozens if not hundreds of times; pharmacies and local health centers changed the status of vaccine availability, and ultimately frontline, essential workers and other groups were irrelevant when we moved to age-based eligibility. This meant extreme flexibility and fluidity not just from an editorial standpoint but in building a data structure design that would respond to the continuously updated vaccination distribution plans. Because the tool was available in three languages, that also required a major effort to continuously translate hundreds of rows at a time as information changed.
What can others learn from this project?
From the development side, the editorial content and data structure needed to be considered at the start of the project; and in doing so, we found success in the long run when we needed to adjust how we were presenting the content. This project was ambitious; we were the first news organization out of the gate with a site. That happened because we made the calls, did the data collection and had strong editors move quickly to get accurate information. Working hand-in-hand with developers to build a responsive app was necessary from day 1. These two teams should never work in silos, especially when it comes to complicated projects. The relationships built will carry over to the next big project.