Utilising Technology to Streamline Vaccine Drive Vital
By Eunice Ruth
With the surge in COVID-19 cases, it is important to understand the risks and avoid the spread. The public should avoid gatherings at public places for various purposes. Visiting hospitals to get vaccinated is another major concern which needs to be addressed immediately. Amid facing a difficult time with the COVID-19 pandemic and its challenges, it is important to understand the need for digitalisation, without sticking to old paper form database systems, to reduce mass public gatherings and ease the work of the health officials.
Digitalisation has influenced many industries for years and with the technology that exists today, there is a solution to help the vaccination process within the country. Also, the Government and health officials found that digital solutions could save their time, increase response rates, and resolve other unwanted tensions and troubles with the public. Therefore, the Sri Lankan Government, health officials, and the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) have decided to set up a website for the online registration of the COVID-19 vaccination, which will be user-friendly, flexible, and citizen-focused.
Strategic Communications Specialist of ICTA, T.M.G. Chandrasekara, said the website has been developed by the ICTA in partnership with the Ministry of Health and other medical informatics staff. The website will allow citizens to register for their vaccines online and is linked to the electoral registry database, which will facilitate information for all above the age of 18, he added. The digitalisation process will help in tracking the vaccines belonging to different pharmaceutical companies, which will help community health sectors understand the efficacy levels of each vaccine for long-term follow-up action, in the event it becomes necessary.
“After submitting personal details, the individuals will receive a date, time and allocated vaccination centres for different areas will be announced in the Media, with links to the ICTA website. People will get a time along with a code to be produced at their respective vaccination centres, which will enable them to get vaccinated expeditiously, without having to wait in long queues. After receiving both vaccines, every individual will be issued with a Government-certified, internationally recognised certificate, bearing a QR code which confirms its authenticity,” Chandrasekara said.
Meanwhile, ICTA Chairman, Prof. Lalith Gamage, said the Agency is fully aware of the need to maintain data security and has taken measures to ensure data privacy. Digitalisation will facilitate a transparent process which will follow policies and regulations of the Government with regard to who gets the vaccine and the location where they would receive it. This will be done in coordination with the Health Ministry and allied institutions such as Medical Officer of Health and Grama Niladhari Divisions. Also, the data collected will be released strictly only to the authorised medical staff. Apart from prepping for vaccines, the relevant medical staff will be able to use the data for research purposes, such as making inferences on how diseases correlate, so that they can find the best solutions for infected patients, he added.
“This software will help the Government to distribute the vaccine to all transparently and through this system we will enable everyone to get the vaccine by prior appointments. This measure will not only be a convenience to the public and health officials, but will also help to prevent the virus spread, by eliminating the need for mass gatherings and long queues,” he said.
Meanwhile, the pilot project to digitalise the COVID-19 vaccine rollout was successfully completed on 19 May at the Army Hospital and also, currently, the testing process is ongoing in various Grama Niladhari Divisions. The website is expected to be available to the public soon. The updates of the website including the information regarding vaccine availability, date, time and vaccination centres has not been updated completely and the Ministry of Health has to update the website with the relevant vaccine details and MOH area details.
Last year, the ICTA supported the country with another COVID-19 safety measure, with the launch of ‘Stay Safe,’ application, which is a QR Code-based system that allows the public to enter their personal details via their mobile when going to supermarkets, malls, hospitals, and offices.