Vaccine management in the (African) cloud

Thursday, 03 December, 2020 | Supplied by: Oracle Corporation Australia

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) has been providing policy advice and hands-on support to African governments as they tackle complex COVID-19 challenges. To address these challenges, the TBI partnered with Oracle to deliver cloud technology to digitise and unify national health data — starting with the management of vaccinations.

The Oracle Health Management System creates an electronic health record in a cloud database for every person as they are vaccinated. This highly secure system can be quickly configured to interoperate with an individual country’s existing technology and meet their most stringent data sovereignty requirements. Participating countries will have access and support for the system, free of charge, for the next 10 years.

Ghana, Rwanda and Sierra Leone will use the system to create electronic health records for their vaccination programs for yellow fever, HPV, polio and measles as well as COVID-19, as soon as that vaccine is distributed to Africa. TBI and Oracle are also in discussions with more than 30 other countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America that are evaluating the same cloud system to manage their COVID-19 vaccination programs.

“The Oracle Health Management System is currently being used by the US Government and large healthcare and research organisations to monitor COVID-19 patient symptoms, responses to treatments, and to screen volunteers for COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials,” said Oracle Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison. “By working with Tony and his team over a period of a few months, we were able to deliver the exact same 21st-century cloud technology to Ghana, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. This is the first time vaccine data has been stored in a cloud database on a national scale.”

Ghana is using the system to manage its yellow fever vaccine program and will follow with COVID-19 once that vaccine is distributed in Africa. As noted by Dr Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, Expanded Programme on Immunization, Ghana Health Service, “The move from Ghana’s current paper-based vaccination campaign records to digital data management using the Oracle platform will enable our data to be easily accessible by authorised persons. The data will be more secure, and there will be no worry about lost cards as people travel.”

Rwanda has meanwhile prepared its system to support its HPV vaccine administration as soon as secondary schools reopen, with plans to support COVID-19 vaccinations and an immunity pass for citizens in the future. President of Rwanda Paul Kagame said, “This partnership will deliver an innovative digital vaccine e-registry that signals the continent’s readiness to deploy the [COVID-19] vaccine and to safely reopen our economies to trade and tourism.”

Finally, Sierra Leone is preparing to use the system to create digital vaccination records when its next routine Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) campaign begins. EPI is a global initiative to vaccinate for polio, diphtheria, tuberculosis, pertussis, measles and tetanus, with Sierra Leone’s EPI program reportedly covering 95% of eligible children in that country.

“The Government of Sierra Leone is committed to utilising technology and innovation — digitising services to improve service delivery for its citizens,” said Dr David Moinina Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer and Minister of Education of Sierra Leone.

“This collaboration with Oracle and TBI is significant not only for dealing with COVID-19 and broader health needs, such as EPI vaccinations, but will be a key step in our country’s mission of digitisation for all.”

Once a COVID-19 vaccine is available, the system will track immunisations and provide recipients with a QR code. These QR codes will help Africa reopen its borders and economies by providing citizens the proof of immunisation needed to move freely for work and travel.

“This is an immensely exciting and potentially groundbreaking initiative for recording information on all disease vaccinations and treatments in African nations,” said Tony Blair, Executive Chairman of TBI. “Though Africa has coped well with COVID-19, it still needs to be part of international efforts to control the disease, including for international travel. That means vaccination of at least a significant portion of the population, requiring the highest quality data system so that everyone’s vaccine experience is recorded. Oracle can provide that system with data securely stored and owned by each country and is prepared to do so as part of a global philanthropic partnership.

“We will be living with COVID-19 for some years, and the recording of data will be vital in managing its impact and spread. And one thing is clear from this crisis: applying new technology solutions has applications for the digitisation of the entire economy and is crucial for the acceleration of African development. This initiative is a great test case, and my institute is proud to be part of it.”

Image caption: Boy in Ghana receiving a yellow-fever vaccination. Image credit: The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

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