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Digitising Covid-19 vaccination programme: A need of the hour    

2 years ago

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  • Lack of infrastructure main cause for delay in building data platform: DDGHS 

  • ICTA still awaiting Health Ministry approval to launch registration portal  

By Yoshitha Perera    The World Health Organisation (WHO) has noted the need and importance for the computerisation of statistics related to Covid-19 vaccines and their administration by every country in order to have easy tracking. However, Sri Lanka's vaccination programme is yet to be fully computerised with data of all vaccines administered yet to be centralised.  Explaining the need for a separate application to handle all the vaccine-related data, Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr. Hemantha Herath said that the Health Ministry, in partnership with Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), had already commenced the initial stages of maintaining a separate Covid-19 vaccine tracker.  Responding to The Sunday Morning’s query, he said: “Computerisation of vaccination details and maintaining a separate data platform to gather all the vaccine-related data have already been commenced, but there are certain limitations.”    Limitations Adding that the lack of infrastructure is the main issue, Dr. Herath said that the Health Ministry is unable to get the full coverage in some grama niladhari divisions due to lack of infrastructure and procedural issues.  He said: “In some rural divisions, there is poor network coverage and the field health workers don’t have the facilities to enter that data into a separate application. We can’t force them to do it and most field health workers are voluntarily using their network facilities to enter this data.”  The Sunday Morning learnt that the current system is not sufficient as a separate Covid-19 vaccine tracker and the Ministry is in need of developing a proper solution.   Dr. Herath further added that with the existing system, the health officials could not enter the data immediately after the immunisation and they are entering the data which is brought to the Medical Offices of Health (MOH) by the vaccination centres.    “The Health Ministry is not receiving the data related to the vaccination process immediately with the existing system, since there are infrastructure and process issues. However, we have a very good system of paper-based details and we are using that data in parallel to developing the computer-based system.” The Sunday Morning also learnt that there are “vaccine-hesitant” people and the lack of long-term data is the main issue for their beliefs. It is important to provide this information to the public and it could assure that vaccine-hesitant people are receiving a Covid-19 vaccine. Speaking with The Sunday Morning, ICTA Chief Technology Officer Hiranya Samarasekara said that they are still waiting for Ministry of Health approval to launch the registration portal of Covid-19 vaccination.  “Within the course of next week, the ICTA will be able to launch it and publish it to the media.”    An end-to-end solution Adding that ICTA had developed an end-to-end solution for the vaccination appointments, Samarasekara said that it will be developed further with the assistance of the Health Ministry.  Highlighting the need for a separate application, he said that the application would provide an interface through which the public could make prior appointments to receive the vaccine.   “This solution is not only for smartphone users. It can be used on normal mobile phones by sending an SMS.”  Responding to The Sunday Morning’s query, he said that all the information which has been collected in the vaccination centres would be added to the platform titled “Covid-19 Vaccination Tracker” and it is already being rolled out.   He said: “With the assistance of the Air Force, we are entering the details for the existing Covid-19 vaccine tracker.”  Samarasekara added that the ICTA had also developed a smart vaccination certificate for citizens who had received the two doses of vaccines.   He said the certificate would include all the details related to the vaccine, the vaccination batch code, and dates they received the vaccines, along with their national ID numbers.  He said: “The certificate has a unique QR code which cannot be forged and it has been developed according to the WHO smart vaccination certificate guidelines and standards. By scanning this secured QR code, even another country or government can validate the authenticity of the certificate. So, it is a globally valid certificate.”       The Covid-19 vaccine tracker provides an overview of the progress in the roll-out of vaccines to each candidate and it is important to closely monitor the progress of the vaccination programme, he added. 

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