This week the first batch of highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine landed in South Africa.
As the number of available vaccines is limited, government has adopted a phased approach to vaccinations.
To that end the National Depart of Health (NDOH) has created an Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS) through which those eligible for the first round of vaccines can register their interest in receiving a jab.
During his address earlier this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa outlined how vaccinations to achieve herd immunity would be accomplished in South Africa.
While the goal is to vaccinate as many folks as possible in order to protect the most vulnerable citizens and those who cannot take the vaccinations, Ramaphosa made it clear that nobody would be forced to take the vaccine.
“But I want to be clear. Nobody will be forced to take this vaccine. Nobody will be forbidden from travelling, from enrolling at school, or from taking part in any public activity if they have not been vaccinated,” the president said.
That’s good news but circling back to the Electronic Vaccine Data System, we were curious to see what sort of data would be gathered.
Reading through the terms and conditions on the website we can see exactly what data the government will be collecting.
What we appreciate is government also explaining why it’s collecting the data it is.
The following information will be collected and processed through the Electronic Vaccine Data System:
- Personal information (names and Identity Number) as contained in your Identity document. This is to verify and confirm your eligibility as a COVID-19 vaccine beneficiary per the priority phases as defined in the COVID-19 National Vaccination Plan;
- Medical aid details, residential address, email address, phone numbers (including mobile numbers in order to send messages and appointment messages for the second dose of the vaccine);
- Employment details, professional category and registration as part of the priority group eligibility verification; and
- Patient information in relation to your health status including underlying conditions that you may have as a vaccine in line with the vaccination protocols.
Perhaps more important is the data that the portal won’t be collecting.
The government classifies this data as “special personal information” and you won’t have to provide the following information:
- the data about your race or ethnicity;
- religious or philosophical beliefs;
- sex life;
- political opinions or trade union membership;
- information about your health and biometric data; and
- information about criminal convictions and offences.
How government is protecting the data it collects
While government isn’t collecting “special personal information” it is still collecting data and there are questions about how this data will be protected.
Unfortunately NDOH hasn’t gone into specifics (though this is understandable from a cybersecurity perspective) but it has said that it “has employed stringent technical and best practice procedures in place to ensure the integrity of Personal Information is safeguarded against the risk of loss or damage and against the unauthorised or unlawful access”.
“Security is based on at least 99% Availability Service Levels and ISO 27001:2013 framework, which is the international standard that describes best practices and controls,” the NDOH added.
You can read more about the ISO 27001:2013 framework here though the information is limited until you purchase the framework document.
How secure these systems really are remains to be seen and we hope that government has been careful to not only secure user information but protect vaccines from being given to those who aren’t eligible just yet.
When can you be vaccinated?
As with loadshedding and lockdown in South Africa, vaccinations will take a phased approach as well.
Phase one – which is currently underway – will see healthcare workers in the public and private sectors being prioritised for vaccination.
Phase two will include essential workers, people over 60 years old, people with co-morbidities and South Africans living in nursing homes and hostels.
Only in phase three will the vaccination programme be extended to all South African.
The time frame for this vaccination programme and when phases will come online is unfortunately an unknown variable at this stage.
For now, if you are a healthcare worker head to the Electronic Vaccine Data System portal here and register. If you aren’t a healthcare worker we recommend checking the website out and becoming familiar with the data you will be asked for when vaccinations become available for your phase.
We will also endeavour to keep our readers up to date as the country moves from phase one to phase two and finally to phase three.