Black Woman Created Vaccine-Tracking Software, Says CDC Ganked Her Idea And Gave It To Consulting Firm

Black Woman Created Vaccine-Tracking Software, Says CDC Ganked Her Idea And Gave It To Consulting Firm

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Black Woman Created Vaccine-Tracking Software, Says CDC Ganked Her Idea And Gave It To Consulting Firm (Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool)

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Black Woman Created Vaccine-Tracking Software, Says CDC Ganked Her Idea And Gave It To Consulting Firm. A Scripps health official administers a covid-19 vaccine at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Feb. 12, 2021, in Del Mar, Calif. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool)

A Black immunization expert is accusing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and business consulting giant Deloitte of stealing her vaccine tacking software and she kept the whole dispute quiet until The New York Times found out about it. 

As pharmaceutical companies were working on developing vaccines in 2020, the Trump administration knew there would be a need for tracking once they were approved and distributed. 

Tiffany Tate, 50, is the executive director of the Maryland Partnership for Prevention. Tate came up with the idea for PrepMod, a user-friendly PrepMod tracking system that allows patients to enter their own data when they book appointments. This speeds up the vaccination process. Once patients receive their shots, the provider can enter the data into the state registries, The New York Times reported. PrepMod is owned by a for-profit affiliate of the Maryland Partnership.

In spring 2020, the Trump administration awarded the first of two no-bid contracts worth up to $44 million to Deloitte to help patients register to be immunized and states to collect detailed data on vaccine recipients. Deloitte’s software to track vaccinations, called Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS), was flawed. 

Meanwhile, Tate was perfecting her software. On March 13, 2020 — the same day Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency —Tate approached her CDC contacts to inform them that she had made some updates to PrepMod and that she could ready it for a national rollout, The New York Times reported.

In May 2020, Tate presented PrepMod to the American Immunization Registry Association and to CDC officials at meetings where Deloitte was also present. Tate, who has spent 20 years running immunization clinics in underserved communities, previewed her platform for Deloitte officials whom the CDC said were merely consultants.

Now, Tate is accusing Deloitte of stealing her intellectual property.

She 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. Tate didn’t go public with her dispute because she didn’t want to be seen as a whistleblower, she said in the interview.

According to Tate, the CDC expressed interest in buying PrepMod but instead asked Deloitte to build its own system. And for Tate, the software programs are too similar to be a coincidence.

“The letter, dated Aug. 30, says the CDC specifications ‘mirror’ the system Tate created — including a ‘new feature’ that ‘eventually found its way into VAMS,'” The New York Times reported.

“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,” Tate said in the interview. “It was very, very upsetting.”

Tate offered to license her own system for $15 million so that the CDC could distribute it free to states. But the CDC rejected her. She has since sold it to states herself. Currently, 27 states and jurisdictions are using it.

Deloitte dismissed Tate’s claims as “baseless” in a statement issued by its spokesman, Jonathan Gandal. Gandal claims that Deloitte’s software is not based on” Tate’s “information or technology.”

Twitter responded.

“Black woman created a proven vaccine tracking software and offered to license it to the CDC under Trump. CDC instead gave Deloitte a NO-BID contract to build one for 3 times the cost. Deloitte’s is a failure and she has evidence they stole her specs,” tweeted one user.

“I am furious!” responded another user.

Others noted that this type of experience is common for Black creators.

“@POTUS@JoeBiden@VP they have been stealing from blacks for 300 years that’s part of the reason we have nothing,” read one post.

Another tweeted, “All the major companies do this. I left working with them because of it.”

The CDC initially claimed it was excited about PrepMod and asked about the cost, according to the cease-and-desist letter. “It was very clear that they were very very excited about what I was presenting to them and they told me that they didn’t have anything else,” Tate said.

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In May, the CDC awarded Deloitte a contract for $15.9 million — about $600,000 more than Tate had requested. The CDC has since given Deloitte an additional $28 million for the software, The Times reported.

After Deloitte was awarded the contract, Tate said she contacted the company about forming a partnership. Instead, her complaint stated, Deloitte tried to hire her to “work on the very software and project that she had already developed and created.” The offer required Tate to sign “a release,” embedded in a nondisclosure agreement. She refused.