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Digital system for vaccine programme 'vital to its success', committee will be told

The online system has been “challenging” to get off the ground given the timeframe for the vaccine roll out.

Image: Shutterstock/Kunal Mahto

THE DIGITAL SYSTEM for the vaccine programme is “vital to its success”, the Oireachtas Health Committee will be told today.

In his opening statement, David Walsh, the HSE’s implementation lead for the vaccination plan and workforce, says that “the vision is to have a fully digitally supported process from end to end covering all aspects of the vaccine programme”.

Officials from the HSE, the Department of Health as well as the high-level task force for the vaccine plan will update the committee on the vaccine roll out, as well as the new IT system which was needed to cope with the scale of the Covid-19 vaccine programme.

The IT system had to be created from scratch and integrated with the HSE’s systems. IBM and software giant Salesforce were tasked with creating the system.

Walsh’s comments about the importance of the system come after it was revealed that the vaccine roll-out in nursing homes is being recorded with pen and paper, details of which later have to be inputed into the HSE online system, resulting in delays reporting the daily vaccine figures.

Yesterday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said:

“I committed recently to providing the public with daily figures, as full transparency is important.

“The HSE has advised that there is a backlog of figures to be inputted and validated.

“It is working hard to achieve full utilisation of the vaccination IT system at which point it will be in a position to provide updates.”

He said as part of the roll out, the IT system for vaccine programme has been deployed to assist in the organisation, management and recording of vaccinations.

Donnelly said there were “some issues with the new system and processes that support it”.

“Given the speed of the initial rollout, some additional features around data gathering and collation were being added incrementally,” said the minister. 

‘Challenging’ 

Walsh will tell the committee that the online system is “challenging” given the scope and timeframe for the vaccine roll out.

“We are delivering a national digital programme, which normally takes six months to deliver in three weeks,” says Walsh.

Three main processes must be digitally enabled, Walsh says.

A Citizen Registration Portal which will enable scheduling, booking and consent.

Vaccine administration – which includes the validation of citizen identity, recording the vaccine, as well as recording any adverse reactions. The IT admin will also ensure that scheduling any follow up vaccine appointments can be done, and will help with the production of a vaccine certificate.

Reporting and monitoring, data management, and adverse reaction tracking is the third process that needs be done digitally. 

Identifier

He says the integration of the Individual Health Identifier (IHI)is critical to enable the HSE to safely administer the vaccine. 

An Individual Health Identifier is a number that identifies each person within the public and private health sector in Ireland, a unique number that is different to a PPSN.

Walsh states system for recording vaccinations has been set up, and has been operational in 680 health care facilities across the health service since 29 December.

The GP element of the ICT portal is now live, says Walsh, with the facility allowing GPs to register to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

“Once a person presents at the clinic for vaccination, they are validated by an admin staff member and then the person who is administering the vaccine records the details of the vaccination. The data is stored on the Salesforce solution,” he says. 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this week that people in the wider public should be able to book their vaccination appointment in June or July.

The committee will also hear from Professor Brian MacCraith, Chair, High Level Task Force on Covid-19 Vaccination. This was the group that produced the roll-out report that the government is following.

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Roll out of the vaccine 

In his opening statement, MacCraith states that the task force “has no executive authority or responsibility for the roll-out” of the vaccine. 

“The programme has now moved into a live HSE operation with the commencement of roll out… The Minister and Department of Health is responsible for policy matters. The operational delivery of the programme is the responsibility of the HSE, under its Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Colm Henry,” MacCraith states. 

His comments come as a number of Opposition TDs have raised concerns about who is in charge of the roll-out, with Labour’s Alan Kelly calling for a minister other than the health minister, to be responsible for the vaccine delivery.

MacCraith will also tell the committee that the task force is supported by a programme  management office, led by a programme director, Derek Tierney.

This office has produced a Programme Planning Roadmap (PPR), an integrated design tool which helps plan for scenarios such as reductions in early deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines.

A vaccine briefing note for the committee from the HSE states that people searching for vaccine information are most interested in news of when they can get the vaccine, immunity after the vaccine, and any possible long-term side effects, as well as the vaccine effectiveness and allocation groups.

HSE ad campaign

Committee members will also be told today of the HSE’s advertising campaigns for the vaccine.

On Facebook, the HSE says it has reached over 9.2 million people with over 573,000 engagements on their posts.

On Instagram, the HSE’s posts have reached over 669,000 people, with more than 25,000 likes.

On Twitter, the top five tweets from the HSE have all been vaccine related.

The HSE website for the vaccine has seen 488,000 visits since early December, and currently about 150,000 visits each week.

Other than the main landing page, the page on how to get the vaccine got 145,000 page views, while there were 135,000 views of the vaccine roll out page page. This was followed by the 51,000 page views of the webpage on the side effects page.

While advertising has been taking place since December, the next phase of promotion will begin next week aimed at vaccinating people in the community, starting with people aged 85 and over, who will be vaccinated by GPs. 

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