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Covid-19: Race on to complete NZ’s new vaccination register
January 17, 2021
Millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccine are on the way.
The first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech inoculation should arrive in March for border workers, with a broader rollout over the second half of the year.
The government has spent $66 million on super-cold freezers and other logistics for the vaccination rollout.
But lately, there have been rumblings that a new online vaccination register won’t be finished by the time the first doses land.
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The in-the-works National Immunisation Solution (NIS) will have a lot to track. The government has bought just under 25m doses for NZ and various Pacific Islands across its contracts with Pfizer/BionTech, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Novavax and AstraZeneca, which will be administered by a mix of public and private providers in multiple locations. Some are one-dose, some are two-dose, and there are different transportation and cooling requirements. Effectiveness and side-effects will have to be tracked.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health told the Herald “work is well underway” on the NIS but that in the event it isn’t ready by the time the first doses arrive, “We have already built a new ‘interim’ solution that can be used now, if required.
“We are continuing to enhance this, then we will train vaccinators in its use, in the lead up to the Covid-19 vaccination campaign.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if the ‘interim’ solution involved a pen-and-paper, a spreadsheet or a cut-down version of what will become the full NIS.
WHY A NEW SYSTEM?
The current National Immunisation Register (NIR) has two issues. One, it was pre-cloud, so not suited for the real-time updates that will be needed for the fast-moving Covid vaccination rollout (remembering Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins’ maxim that “It’s not when we start, it’s when we finish” and the dog’s breakfast that the US and UK have made of their inoculation programmes so far).
The other is that the NIR’s primary focus was on recording childhood immunisations.
“While the NIR has been an incredibly useful source of information, the new system will better support the delivery of all our immunisation programmes,” the Ministry of Health spokeswoman says.
“Once the NIS is fully implemented, any health worker will be able to record vaccinations anywhere, any time – and regardless of whether they are publicly funded or self-funded. The NIS will be able to prove vaccination for Covid-19 and confirm vaccination history.
“Over time the goal is to enable members of the public to digitally access their own immunisation records.”
The Ministry of Health says it’s two primary technology partners on the new, cloud-based NIS are two American outfits: Salesforce and Amazon Web Services (AWS) – whose nearest server farm is Sydney, implying that processing and storage of our immunisation data will be offshored.
Salesforce was founded in 1999 by ex-Oracle executive Marc Benioff, bankrolled by his former boss Larry Ellison. It was one of the first pure cloud players and has since become the dominant supplier of CRM (customer relationship management) software – now used across a variety of industries but still most popularly-used as a tool for companies to track their various engagements with customers.
AWS (part of Jeff Bezos’ Amazon conglomerate) has already been involved in our coronavirus fight as a supporting player for the NZ Covid Tracer app developed by Auckland’s Rush Digital.
The new NIS will become a one-stop-shop for recording all inoculations.
“During the remainder of 2021, we will further develop the system beyond Covid-19 so that it supports all vaccinations, therefore replacing the existing National Immunisation Register,” the Ministry of Health spokeswoman says.