Why the Dublin Aviva Covid vaccine experience sucks, and how design thinking can make it better

Be the pebble, make some ripples

I was pretty excited to get my Covid vaccine, maybe the whole stupid nightmare was coming to an end? The fact that I was to be vaccinated in Dublin’s Aviva stadium, AKA Lansdowne Road, where I’d enjoyed everything from international rugby matches to Roger Waters The Wall, surely meant that this would be another well-staged event? Nope.

Aviva Stadium exterior. Very plastic.

I decided against paying for parking in the stadium, as there was little chance of that being a good experience. So I parked down on the street nearby, €2.90 for an hour. No way it could take longer than that, right?

After an hour, you can gaze down sadly at the ever-growing line outside.

There was a pretty big queue outside, looping back on itself so that you never really feel like you’re getting anywhere. After about an hour of this very shitty wait, you show your text message and get inside the building for more crazed waiting. I need to stress that at no stage in the hour and 15 minutes of queuing is there anything remotely fun or interesting. There’s a water station, one of those huge plastic bottles with a foot pedal. I think the disposable cup was plastic as well, can’t remember.

Shitty badge alert!

Then you get to show your ID, computer says “Yes”, and you’re closer to your jab. At this stage, you can take a badge, “as many as you want”. The badge appears to say ‘HE I got my COVID-19 vaccine #ForUsAll’ and it’s so fucking sad and terrible, I have to break it down…

The ‘He’ is actually the logo of the HSE, Health Service Executive, a suitably Orwellian name for a dysfunctional and dystopian state health system in Ireland. That their logo uses an S to complete both a H and an E says so much that I just can’t go on.

‘I got my COVID-19 vaccine’ is just more specific than it needs to be. What other vaccine has anybody ever worn a badge about? And writing COVID in shouty all caps is just unnecessary.

‘#ForUsAll’ is just the latest pathetic government attempt to be cool while also saying absolutely nothing at all. This hashtag is so Boris Johnson Tory, it’s actually nauseating.

I know this one little badge uses a seemingly infinite number of fonts/styles, but it does read: HE I got my COVID-19 vaccine For Us All. This is truly peak Irish government bullshit. I shudder to think of how many millions of these were paid for by Irish taxpayers and what future archaeologists will make of it. Embarrassing and upsetting.

Then you get a glimpse of the deserted stadium!

Then it’s just a slow, shuffling hop, skip and a jump upstairs to the vaccine floor! Yay! You get to go along a sadly closed bar, with a view of the stadium, all very green. The giant TV screens are very much turned off, and there’s literally nothing happening.

Then it’s into a space where all these little cubicles are set up and then you get the jab. A little prick, very anticlimactic.

You want purgatory X dystopia? You got it!

Then you’re sent down a corridor to dystopia, where you must wait for 15 minutes. Welcome to purgatory, for this is what it must feel like. You’re in what must be a large corporate bar, usually stuffed with overpaid dicks boozing on company expenses, while the match goes on below. And yes, it must be fun to be one of those twats on match day. But this is no match day. This is so painfully serious, you just want to run away. But no. You must sit for 15 minutes, which feel like 80, plus 10 minutes extra for half time.

You sit on a chair, you gaze down at the empty stadium and there is nothing more. No music. No chatter. No clinking glasses. No roar. No nothing. The final ignominy: Wipe down your chair when you’re leaving. And that’s it. Bye! Exiting downstairs, you pass by the line of people waiting for entry. You don’t want to shatter their hopes and dreams. So you say nothing. The only relief is that my car hasn’t been clamped as the whole sorry experience took over an hour and 45 minutes.

All in all, just another brick in the wall.

But it doesn’t have to be this awful

Design thinking is about putting the customer experience at the heart of everything. You could say that the Irish health system is the complete opposite of this, being responsible for scandal after scandal, such as the CervicalCheck cancer scandal. The HSE is an utterly dysfunctional organisation, is heavy on useless ‘managers’, relies on the Catholic Church, and treats nurses and midwives like dirt. It is currently building the most expensive children’s hospital in the world in the worst possible location, and everyone just knows it’s going to be shit. The HSE’s ‘CEO’, Paul Reid, was paid €420,000 in 2020. Yes, you read that right. The head of Ireland’s crappy ‘health service executive’ gets paid substantially more than the President of the United States (approx. €377,000).

Use the peak-end rule

But, let’s pretend. A key part of design thinking is the peak-end rule. This implies that in any customer experience, people will most remember the emotional peak they had, whether a high or a low, and what happened at the end. In America, you can get a free joint (where legal), a free beer, or even free entry to a million-dollar lottery, after your vaccine. They get the peak-end rule.

Here’s what I would do:

Have signs along the queue with free wifi access instructions.

Hire musicians and comedians to perform in the outside waiting area.

Put something out in the middle of the pitch. Something huge and unexpected. An inflatable anything.

Put funky messages on the huge TVs out by the pitch. This is such a no-brainer. And not ‘#ForUsAll’. God, no.

In the purgatory waiting lounge, play some music or something. Anything! Give out lollipops or chocolate bars. Show something on the giant screens!

Then, when people are leaving (having cleaned their seat!), give them a badge (which could be a much cheaper sticker) and something else. Maybe a free condom, if you want everyone talking forever more about how fun the experience was. So the badge should read:

Kiss me quick! I got the vaccine!

And here’s how they’re doing it in France, reported in the Guardian, 9 July 2021: French posters of kissing couples promote ‘desirable’ side of Covid jab

Learn more

Wikipedia on the CervicalCheck cancer scandal in Ireland: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CervicalCheck_cancer_scandal

Irish Times on HSE CEO salary: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/hse-chief-paul-reid-s-salary-increases-to-420-103-1.4506164

Ireland’s new children’s hospital cost overrun described as ‘catastrophic failure’ by the guy who’s now Minister for Health: https://www.rte.ie/news/health/2019/0116/1023551-health-committee-childrens-hospital/

Irish Times – Concern over Catholic ethos for proposed new maternity hospital: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/concern-over-catholic-ethos-for-proposed-new-maternity-hospital-1.4598388

Wikipedia on the peak-end rule: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak%E2%80%93end_rule

Gary J Byrnes

By Gary J Byrnes

Gary J Byrnes is a bestselling thriller writer by night and a tech marketing guy by day. Extensive international experience in software startups, SMEs and multinationals. Find on LinkedIn. Has researched hemp, climate change for over twenty years. Writer, blogger, parent, animal lover. 2022 is about building a new business model to enable mass planting of hemp through easy carbon offsetting at Hempoffset.com.

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