Managing a crisis: Cloud computing and their role in vaccination

SaaS Article -SaaS-in-Vaccination (source: SaaS Industry)
At a Glance

Technology has been helping frontline workers tackle the COVID-19 crisis. Prior to this, technology, especially cloud computing infrastructure, has played a significant role in researching the Ebola virus, H1N1 flu, and much more. And currently, with the ongoing inoculation drives for this pandemic, cloud services are contributing effectively to vaccine research, analysis and deployment

The incidence of the COVID-19 pandemic has repeatedly stressed the necessity and significance of getting vaccinated. During the initial days of the pandemic, healthcare professionals and medical scientists worldwide were busy working to find a cure for the virus. And today, more than a year after the pandemic’s origins, vaccination roll-outs have commenced, and studies to find other types of vaccines are also in progress.

The contribution of cloud computing in this has been significant. In fact, cloud computing infrastructure has been helping many scientists and frontline workers from the earliest stages of vaccination – from collecting, gathering and analyzing data to implementing the findings. Managing bulk volumes of data and comprehending it to arrive at a pragmatic solution, especially in a life and death situation, requires technological assistance.

A glimpse of how data centers empowered big data analysis for healthcare sectors was provided by Ernest Sampera, chief marketing and business development officer at vXchnge, in his report on vxchnge. He stressed the flexibility of hybrid cloud and multi-cloud deployments that would allow companies to build customized network solutions for the healthcare sector in numerous ways to manage their data effectively. 

The healthcare sector is embracing cloud technology today. For example, before the deployment of cloud services for the SARS CoV-2 virus and vaccine development, such technology was used in the viral research of the Ebola Crisis in 2014. Then, IBM had come to the rescue by deploying data analytics and cloud computing technology to control the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone. And even before Ebola, during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had utilized cloud technology as part of its ongoing effort to combat influenza.

The pertinence of cloud computing in tackling these mutant viral strains involves being there at the time of need. Having up-to-date information on the latest viral strains enabled researchers to collaborate more effectively and develop vaccines for them. In addition, it has played an instrumental role in managing flu and other outbreaks in the last decade.

How have they helped now?

The past asunder, with respect to the COVID-19 vaccinations, cloud computing support has accelerated vaccine improvements. According to Leonard Foster, professor and head of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of British Columbia, the types of experiments required to understand the coronavirus generate massive datasets. Such datasets need to be analyzed and interpreted computationally. 

However, Mr. Foster stated that since his research is supported by the Mitacs project, leveraged by Microsoft’s Azure Cloud, he and his team could quickly analyze vast chunks of complex data using powerful applications that run on the cloud platform.

“If someone were to use a pen, paper, and a calculator, it might take them beyond the life of the universe to come up with results. With our existing resources, we may be able to come up with something in five to 10 years. But thanks to our collaboration with Microsoft, we have accessed cloud computing power that results in us being able to see results within months,” Mr. Foster elucidates. 

Mr. Foster’s project is crucial as immunity levels against the virus are still being determined. He also states that due to the cloud infrastructure, the vaccine development pace has increased as specific experiments, which otherwise would have been impossible to conduct with existing and other outdated technologies, could now be carried out with ease.

Big companies also pitched in to help. Amazon Web Services (AWS), in March 2020, had committed $20 million in cloud credits to those researching the virus, aiming to accelerate the development of tests for the virus. In addition, it allowed researchers to run workloads for free on its cloud. Before AWS, IBM also provided many cloud-based AI research resources for free to medical professionals and scientists.

Also, it is not just IBM or Microsoft Cloud or the others. Google Cloud, for instance, had partnered with the State of Arizona, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, and Virginia to support their mass vaccination efforts. Google’s Intelligence Vaccine Impact (IVI) technology played a significant role in various strategies to speed up the vaccination process, such as IT systems and other devices to meet vaccine demands, manage allocation, and schedule appointments.

Google’s IVI helps in increasing vaccine availability and ensuring equitable access to people. Alongside that, it also looks to build awareness, confidence among people on vaccination and help tackle vaccine hesitancy. 

We designed our solution to easily integrate with existing technologies, knowing that governments will administer their vaccine distributions in unique ways

Google states.

It offers a variety of features ranging from – COVID forecasting (to help governments make better policy decisions on COVID-19), better and quality information (a vaccine information portal increasing transparency), and a vaccine scheduling management system (to seamlessly manage vaccine rollouts, among others).

Apart from these giants, numerous other cloud providers are playing their part in multiple different ways. Hence the applications are many in terms of domain and in terms of numbers. Leading cloud computing companies have shown their proactiveness in supporting cloud-based healthcare research. It will be noteworthy to observe how these technologies develop in the future and serve crucial industries.

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