Ongoing challenges with online COVID vaccine register

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There have been challenges with government’s electronic vaccination data system (EVDS), concedes the health department’s Dr Nicholas Crisp, emphasising there are areas in the system that need to be “tightened”.

Crisp, deputy director-general (DG) in the national Department of Health (DOH) – who is also in charge of the EVDS – was speaking on SABC’s SAfm this morning.

His comments come amid a host of challenges experienced by citizens in regards to the EVDS, which is the DOH’s official online self-registration portal for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Among the main frustrations has been the lack of confirmation SMS informing registered users of their vaccination date and site, as well as Internet connectivity issues in some rural areas cited as hampering registration of some senior citizens.

Despite this, the system is doing what the department wants it to do, stated Crisp.

“In our view, it [EVDS] has exceeded expectations,” he said. “It’s not just a registration and vaccination system, it’s controlling everything to do with the vaccination programme. It has a huge amount of logistics, far more complicated than meets the eye, and we can’t manage something like this without an electronic system.

“We concede that there have been challenges and there are things that need to be tightened in the system, and there are programming things that are being brought to our attention that are being addressed on a daily basis.”

Cheating the system

Ahead of the phase two rollout of the country's vaccination programme, the DOH opened up the system to persons 60 years and above last month.

The EVDS, the official online register for the COVID-19 vaccine, was initially unveiled in February, only allowing healthcare professionals to register on the portal.

To open up the system to more citizens, the health department encouraged senior persons to start registering for their vaccines via the virtual self-registration portal.

However, this move opened up the system to manipulation by non-qualifying persons, who managed to register themselves through the registration system meant for healthcare workers. This then resulted in the suspension of that portal, meaning healthcare workers that were yet to register were iced out.

Crisp explained: “In the beginning, the registration of healthcare workers under the Sisonke Trial was closely controlled and it was healthcare professionals registered with council. It was then widened to include healthcare workers who work in those healthcare establishments.

“Sisonke registration closed and the new system registration began. There was still a portal for healthcare workers, but the definition is broad and people worked out that there wasn’t an absolute requirement and nobody asked whether they had a registration with any professional body. It was very easy then for people to register and claim to work at a particular healthcare location.

“It did become out of hand and it was decided that the portal would be closed and opened in a different place where healthcare professionals can register. If you are a registered healthcare professional with a council number, we now have another way for their registration and verifications.

“For other healthcare workers who are legitimate, at the moment it’s not possible because the portal has had to be closed.”

Crisp stressed that, aside from healthcare professionals, the only people currently being registered are people of the age of 60 and over.

“We’ve got close to three million people registered now,” he told SAfm. “We are gearing up from about 70 000 vaccinations a day. As sites are opening, we will be able to do more and more vaccinations.

“We appeal to people to be patient. We know about you and you are on the register, you are being queued in the register, and when there’s a site near enough to where you live, you will be invited to come for a vaccination.”

Government hopes to inoculate 46.2 million South Africans by March 2022.

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