A no-bid contract to track vaccinations leads to frustration and a cease-and-desist letter.
Last spring, when coronavirus vaccines were just a glimmer of hope, the Trump administration awarded the first of two no-bid contracts worth up to $44 million to a national consulting firm to help patients register to be immunized and states collect detailed data on vaccine recipients.
The result was VAMS, a vaccine administration management system built by the firm, Deloitte, which has been spurned by most states and become an object of scorn. And now, an immunization expert who had offered the government her own mass vaccination tracker at a lower price than Deloitte’s is accusing the company and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of stealing her intellectual property.
Tiffany Tate, the executive director of the Maryland Partnership for Prevention, made the allegation in a cease-and-desist letter obtained by The New York Times, and later confirmed its authenticity in an interview with her lawyer on Friday. Ms. Tate, who has spent two decades running immunization clinics in underserved communities, said she previewed her platform in May for Deloitte officials who were identified by the C.D.C. as consultants.
The C.D.C. expressed interest in buying it, she said. But the centers instead asked Deloitte, without a competitive bidding process, to build its own system, dismissing warnings from state and local health officials and immunization managers that it was unwise to roll out an untested platform in the middle of a crisis.
The letter, dated Aug. 30, says the C.D.C.’s specifications “mirror” the system Ms. Tate created — including a “new feature” that “eventually found its way into VAMS.” Ms. Tate, who is African-American and whose work has focused on minority communities, said the rejection was especially painful in the thick of a pandemic that disproportionately affects people of color.
“I was in shock, and I really was heartbroken because I’ve worked with these people my entire career and I respected them and I trusted them,” Ms. Tate said in the interview. “It was very, very upsetting.”
Ultimately, the marketplace spoke. VAMS, which Mississippi’s state health officer, Dr. Thomas E. Dobbs, described this week as “suboptimal,” is being used in about 10 states. Ms. Tate offered to license her own system for $15 million — about a third what the C.D.C. has committed to pay Deloitte — so the centers could give it free to states. When the C.D.C. rejected her, she said, she sold it to states herself.
Now, 27 states and jurisdictions (not 28 states as an earlier version of this briefing item reported) are using it.
The C.D.C. did not respond to a request for comment. Deloitte dismissed Ms. Tate’s claims as “baseless” in a statement issued by its spokesman.
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