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27/02/2021

The Covid-19 vaccination booking system developed by our team at Nelson Mandela University’s Centre for Community Technologies (CCT) was launched on Tuesday February 23.

It’s an essential system in the mass vaccination process as scheduling each person’s vaccination is highly complex to coordinate.

It’s been a race against time to develop the very easy to use web-based booking solution which everyone in the Nelson Mandela metro can access from any device, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs to book a date and time for their vaccination.

Before this, people had to phone in and their details were written down, which is not sustainable and can create all sorts of problems.

The booking solution streamlines the process and it is the key reference for accurately co-ordinating vaccine distribution from the Phoenix Pharma facility in the metro where the vaccines are being stored in vaccine fridges at the necessary temperature.

Because of the sensitivity of the vaccines, the number of them transported to Livingstone Hospital needs to be precise.

We cannot have 1,000 doses delivered to Livingstone today if only 580 people are being vaccinated, because then 420 doses are wasted.

The booking system determines the exact number of doses required each day to be delivered to Livingstone’s vaccination facility.

The team at the hospital is in constant communication with Phoenix Pharma’s Dr Niel Malan.

We had precious little time to develop the booking solution.

Fortunately we are well placed to do this as one of our areas of specialisation is the digital health-care solution space and we regularly design different ICT solutions that support health-care and service delivery.

To ensure we meet the requirements of the booking system, I did a vaccination site visit to familiarise myself with the client’s vaccination journey.

The solution was then refined over the weekend, shared with the metro ’ s coordination team for input and given to one of our developers to code it and ready it for deployment.

In a few months’ time the system will handle millions of people, which it is designed to do — it is running on a secure database back end and a web-based front end with a very easy to use interface.

Presently, the booking system, which has to be intuitive and very easy for members of the public to use, is being piloted with healthcare staff from Livingstone.

If people don’t know how to use it, we will set up a helpline where their details can be entered in the booking system.

A vaccination recipient has to register on the national health department’s EVDS solution (https://sacoronavirus.co.za/evds/).

The EVDS system captures your name, ID and medical history.

The EVDS is encrypted data that belongs to the health department and complies with all the legislative requirements.

Once you are registered, you receive a text message from the EVDS that you have been registered to be vaccinated.

Depending on your status, such as whether you are a front-line worker or over 60 or you have co-morbidities, the health department will categorise you and when it is your time to be vaccinated, a voucher number will be sent to you via text message.

At this time, you are required to use the booking system that is found at http://vacbook.co.za/client/home to book your vaccination date, time and facility.

At the vaccine facility, you enter a dedicated area, confirm that you are on the list and then there are specific points where they do a number of checks, such as confirming your medical history, taking your blood pressure and checking other vitals.

You give consent to be vaccinated, go to the vaccine booth, get your one-off jab and wait 15 minutes to make sure there aren’t any adverse effects; if none you leave.

What has been really good throughout the Covid-19 pandemic is the level of partnership we have developed with the district, provincial and national departments of health, and the office of the Premier.

Digital technology has taken centre stage in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, and the urgent need for solutions, the reliance on, and role of, digital technology has become more crucial than ever before.

The CCT, in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela University’s ICT team, is leading the digital charge as part of Mandela University’s response to the pandemic, in partnership with the metro and province.

We have developed several digital health-care and education solutions and apps over the past year to help manage Covid-19 in our communities, schools and hospitals, as well as other high-risk contagious diseases, including TB.

We recently launched the rollout of DigiTB — a TB app in the metro to reduce the DS-TB burden through more effective management of disease cases.

This article appeared in the Weekend Post (South Africa) on 27 Feb 2021 written by Professor Darelle van Greunen, Director of the Centre for Community Technologies (CCT), Nelson Mandela University