All of Us

How the CDC Failed Us

by MakeUsWell

First Principles

  1. ~90%+ of Americans don't trust government or public health officials with vaccination information, insights, and communications.
  2. Our local, state, and federal government (both parties) need to regain public trust. Good systems with accurate data and precise analytics are needed. Useful reports on vaccinations, risks, and side effects will drive this.

CDC's Acronym Pish Posh

CDC stands for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

VAERS is an acronym for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

WONDER—Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research. CDC wrote it’s "an easy-to-use, menu-driven system that makes the information resources available to public health professionals and the public at large."

Finally, CDC wrote "V-safe is a smartphone-based tool that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after you receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Through v-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers to the web surveys, someone from CDC may call to check on you and get more information. V-safe will also remind you to get your second COVID-19 vaccine dose if you need one."

What MakeUsWell Did

MakeUsWell tested CDC's claims. We:

  1. Played with the CDC systems.
  2. Surveyed people we know and strangers from the general population. Over email, SMS, phone, and in-person. And asked for their opinions and experiences with the CDC sub-systems.
  3. Extensively tested the design, usability, performance, and security of the various CDC sub-systems. Used MakeUsWell's technical talents and consulted with our FAANG, now known in the mainstream media as "Evil Bigtech" friends.

Benchmarking CDC vs Popular Websites

The Fundamentals

Non-Linear Scale:1=Bad, 100=Perfect

Type Design Usability Performance Privacy and Security
VAERS 12 13 8 8
WONDER 10 11 11 13
V-Safe N/A 10 10 N/A
Google Drive 92 94 96 96
Facebook 94 96 95 N/A
Twitter 95 96 96 N/A

Nota Bene

  1. All the CDC sub-products were benchmarked to Google, Facebook and Twitter products on a browser.
  2. Privacy and Security are N/A for Twitter and Facebook because pretty much there's zero privacy. Both platforms are overrun with fake accounts and bots. And your data is sold or rented to advertisers. Russian, Chinese, Indian, or other foregin hackers, governments, and intelligence accounts harvest Americans' data. And the anti-vaxxers also steal our data and personal information.
  3. V-Safe was too new to rate completely on a couple of dimensions, hence the N/A.

Specific Issues

VAERS claims to report events such as:

  • Hospital Visits
  • ER/Urgent Care Visits
  • Bell's Palsy
  • Severe Allergic Reactions
  • And more

VAERs suffers from numerous problems that render it useless.

  1. Pro-Vaccination segments claim that VAERS is inflating the data because vaccines are 100% safe. And never have any problems or side effects.
  2. Anti-Vaccination segments scream that VAERS is undercounting the data and adverse reactions. And the true bad side effect cases are 3-10X higher.
  3. Pro-Vaccination segments counter that Anti Vaxxers clog VAERS up with fake data. And a significant percentage of the VAERS data is fake—a crime, but obviously not a deterrent.
  4. Anti vaxxers claim that people aren't submitting enough data. And they're partially right. Some people—including some of us at MakeUsWell—gave up. Because the website is clunky or down, and the CDC rarely answers calls or emails.
  5. Others would submit data if it was truly anonymous.
  6. Specifically, Screenshots #2 & #3 show the bad design. This violates many of the principles in the canonical work, Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell.
  7. In Screenshot #2, the user must know the exact time of the shot. The shot is often given before or after the appointment time. People are generally stressed the day of the shot and can't remember a precise time of their jab.
  8. Screenshot #3, requires the user to calculate their exact age in month at the time of the vaccination. It doesn't tell the user whether this is supposed to be the first or second vaccination. And VAERS is buggy. Often, it doesn't accept the user input for this field, unless the date of their entry calculates to a whole month after their birthday.
  9. Screenshots #4 says that VAERS essentially doesn't work on mobile. And implies mobile isn't secure.
  10. Screenshot #1 on V-Safe, shows a verified person who had already had both shots. They get a notification on March 28 to schedule their second shot.


You've seen under ~ 1,000 words with screenshots, a sampling of the issues with CDC's broken, pseudo-systems.

We'll suggest concrete improvements and specific ideas as part of MakeUsWell's GRAS HOPE framework.

Screenshot #1

Screenshot #2

Screenshot #3

Screenshot #4