COVID-19 vaccine WhatsApp registration in the works

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South Africa’s general population will, in the near future, be able to use popular messaging service WhatsApp to register for their COVID-19 vaccine, according to health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Mkhize revealed the news at a press briefing this morning, announcing SA’s COVID-19 vaccination self-registration portal, the electronic vaccination data system (EVDS), opens to senior persons today.

The minister noted the EVDS will be live at 4pm this afternoon, encouraging people over 60 years to start registering for vaccination via the virtual self-registration portal.

“We are also proud there will be WhatsApp service added shortly that will allow people to register on WhatsApp,” said Mkhize, noting it will be announced when this service is ready.

The EVDS was officially unveiled in February. However, as part of the national Department of Health’s phased vaccination rollout programme, only healthcare workers were allowed to register on the portal.

The portal can be accessed via cellphone, tablet or computer with an Internet connection. According to the department, it aims 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.

South Africa is preparing for phase two of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, which is scheduled to kick-off mid-May.

Mkhize said this morning it’s been noted that phase two is going to focus on those who are in vulnerable settings, adding that his department is prioritising within that category.

“Those who are turning 60 from 2021 would then be eligible for registration,” he said. “We are doing this because we have said to make it easy to implement the vaccine programme, guided by our scientists and our Ministerial Advisory Committee, we must prioritise those who are 60 years and above.

“In the same course of phase two, we will be focusing on the frontline workers, and the next batch will have to be around those who are 40 years and above. This is to ensure we can protect many people from getting a severe disease, hospitalisation and death.

“The prioritisation is just to make it easy to vaccinate and to order people to come in batches that are manageable.

“We will be announcing it clearly as we move on, but it makes it easy to schedule the vaccination if we approach it from this point of view.”

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Mkhize explained that making the EVDS available to more people marks a significant milestone, not only for the vaccination campaign, but for SA’s advancement towards universal health coverage.

“This is the first time in our democratic history that a major public health campaign will be supported by one digital system for all South Africans.

“This is in line with the ninth pillar of the presidential health compact, which commits to strengthening the health system by developing an information system that will guide health policies, strategies and investments. Some of the key activities proposed in the presidential health compact have found expression in the development and establishment of the EVDS system for the general population.

“There will be no distinction between private and state healthcare users, with the exception that private healthcare users will input their medical aid details.

“The quality of services will be the same for all of us, and the system will assign a vaccination site closest to our homes or where we work − not based on whether a particular site is a public or private facility.”

The minister noted the system is a representation of the future of healthcare in this country, as it would not have been possible without the collaboration of the private sector and business at large.

Registration guide

  • Make sure you have smartphone, tablet or computer Internet access.
  • It is important to follow the instructions and put in all the details the system asks for.
  • When you are finished, the system will send an SMS to the phone number provided. This SMS will confirm you are registered. This means the system now has your details in a queue to be scheduled for your vaccine.
  • When it is your turn to be vaccinated, the system will send you another SMS with a date and the place where you will be vaccinated. If you put in the correct address, you will be sent to the vaccination centre that is closest to your home. Some of you may be directed to your place of work.
  • If you have problems, contact the COVID-19 hotline at 0800 029 999. A dedicated call centre for the EVDS is being finalised and that number will be announced and displayed on the EVDS portal when you register.

Mkhize explained: “The data from the system assists us to allocate the vaccines to the vaccine service points, ensuring enough vaccines are available on a particular vaccination day.

“The details of the vaccinations will be captured digitally, creating an electronic health record. In cases where we have your mobile number, you will receive an SMS confirming that you have been vaccinated and you will also be provided with a vaccination card.

“I want to reassure South Africans that we do have a plan to ensure everyone is registered and we want as many people as possible to be registered before going to be vaccinated. This will save a lot of time and will also help us to allocate vaccinations to respective areas appropriately.”

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