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Online COVID-19 vaccine register for healthcare workers opens

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 03 Feb 2021

More than 34 000 healthcare workers have already registered on government’s electronic vaccination data system (EVDS) self-registration online portal for their COVID-19 vaccine.

So said health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, speaking during the official launch of the virtual self-registration portal this morning. South Africa received its first consignment of COVID-19 vaccines on Monday.

Currently, only healthcare workers are allowed to register on the portal as part of the Department of Health’s phased vaccination rollout programme. The general public will only be able to register via the online portal as the next stages of the vaccination programme are implemented.

“This is the beginning of a complete vaccination health information system from registration to certification,” said Mkhize. “This system has been developed with a purpose to ensure we lay a solid foundation for digital health information systems that inform the right national policies and interventions.

“We are making excellent strides by leveraging off existing digital infrastructure and focusing our energy and capability on the inter-operability of our systems. The National Health Council recently adopted the 2020 health normative standards framework for digital health inter-operability to ensure different health information platforms talk to each other, providing critical data both at provincial and national level.

The health department has described its EVDS as a platform to co-ordinate, ensure facilities that are accredited are on the system, co-ordinate the supply of vaccines, enable a pre-booking and vaccination system, and record who is and isn’t vaccinated, as well as any information that will help the department with planning, execution and monitoring of the vaccination.

It initially indicated its plans to establish such a system at the start of the year, with the department’s deputy director-general Dr Anban Pillay saying it is for the management and surveillance of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The launch of the EVDS self-registration portal for healthcare workers comes a week after the department’s acting COO Milani Wolmarans alluded to its imminent unveiling.

At the time, Wolmarans said the self-registration portal is an online application that can be accessed via cellphone or via a computer with an Internet connection.

She added it will capture basic information to be able to assign or tell the healthcare worker which vaccination site to go to, as well as on which date to receive the vaccine.

Wolmarans said at the time: “The information that is provided on this portal, we will use it to communicate with those registered on the portal about the vaccination programme where it is necessary and the communication will be through this application.”

Speaking at this morning’s launch, Wolmarans stated the self-registration system is only one component of the full EVDS.

She added the national Department of Health has determined the scope of work for the full EVDS, and the system belongs to the health department.

According to Mkhize, the electronic vaccination data system has been built on the systems and solutions that are already being implemented, capitalising on the health patient registration platform. Numerous other systems will feed into this EVDS.

“The system can capture all the relevant metrics of all South Africans that will be vaccinated, ensure vaccinees are contactable and alerted, to optimise adherence to the vaccination regiment, and complete the certification process such that the vaccination certificates are easy to obtain for vaccinees and authorities that might require certification.”

Responding to a question about whether the self-registration system could crash after a million people register on it, Wolmarans stated: “The EVDS is built on the health registration system that already manages 59 million records, and it hasn’t crashed. It’s built on a very solid platform in terms of the enterprise architecture.

“If you have a huge number of people getting onto the system, it might delay and people just need to be patient with that and try another time. That is all we are expecting that there might be a delay but no crashing.”

In terms of security of the self-registration portal, she said penetration testing has been conducted. “We are working with the platform of Mezzanine, which complies with high standards of security.

“In its totality, the EVDS platform complies with national and international standards with regards to security. A number of penetration tests have been done, and it has been conducted and managed through the CSIR – in terms of the security testing.”

In line with the phased-approach of the vaccine rollout plan, Mkhize called on all active healthcare workers to self-register on the portal.

“All healthcare workers – clinical and non-clinical, public and private, Persal and non-Persal – are invited to join more than 34 000 health workers who have already registered through the system as we speak now.

“Whilst it is possible to register on the site, if one is not a healthcare worker, the system will automatically prioritise verified health workers for the period of phase one. In the event that a healthcare worker has not self-registered, they will not be denied vaccination but registered at the vaccination site.

“We, however, encourage all healthcare workers to register because this will help us to know how to refine our current allocations and get enough vaccines to the right vaccine centres at the right time.”