- South Africa's Electronic Vaccination Data System is used to register and schedule vaccination appointments.
- It can process 2.5 million registrations in 15 minutes and automatically allocates timeslots and sites according to a user's location and regional vaccine supply.
- But this automated scheduling has sent some people to far-flung places to get their jabs.
- To limit frustrations, an additional scheduling platform will be added to the EVDS, allowing people to decide where and when they want to be vaccinated.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
South Africans will soon be able to choose when and where they receive their Covid-19 vaccinations through an online platform which will be integrated with the country's Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS).
South Africans wanting to get vaccinated against Covid-19 need to be registered on the EVDS. For the general public, this self-registration process involves completing an online form requiring personal information. The EVDS is opened to certain age groups – in line with government's risk-determined, phased rollout – and verifies eligibility via the ID or passport number provided.
Essential workers prioritised separately to the age-based system within rollout – like school staff, police, military personnel, mineworkers, and journalists – are not required to self-register on the EVDS, although their details, recorded by the employer, will still be logged on the system.
In this way, the EVDS is critical in managing the country's vaccine rollout, directing doses to sites according to the demand – ensuring sufficient supply – and issuing follow-up notifications to those needing to receive their second doses.
By Friday, more than 8.5 million people had registered to receive their vaccines in South Africa. Of these, some six million had already received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and over two million had been fully vaccinated, either by receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab or two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
This detailed rollout data, updated and published daily, is managed through, and stored within, the EVDS.
Beyond self-registering on the EVDS, South Africans have relied on the platform's automated algorithm – determined by the home or work address provided and local availability of vaccines – to schedule an appointment. The appointment, confirmed by an automated SMS, allocates a time and site where the person will receive their jab.
But this system, especially since opening to the general public, has been fraught with complications. People have complained about being sent to vaccination sites in other regions, far from work or home, at impractical times.
"One of the key areas that we have identified are the frustrations that some of our population are experiencing around the automated, centralised booking system," Chief Director of the National Department of Health and the National EVDS project manager, Milani Wolmarans, admitted during a press briefing on Friday.
"We're looking at how we can improve the choice of individuals in order to be able to select the site and also select the timeslot for them to access the vaccination. So, we're talking about complementary vaccination appointment scheduling [on] digital platforms."
South Africans have been able to schedule appointments, through some third party platforms managed by private sites – with pharmaceutical giant Dis-Chem allowing those who have registered on the EVDS to book a timeslot at one of their designated sites – but this has caused problems with supply, says Wolmarans.
"It does create some disruptions and conflict at the site level where we see overbookings and sometimes people have to be turned away," explained Wolmarans.
"It also fragments the supply planning in order to make sure that when people are arriving at the vaccination site that enough vaccines are available so that every one who arrives that day will receive their vaccination."
The new system, which is due to come online in early August, will add an additional step when self-registering on the EVDS system. Once people have registered and received a vaccination code, they'll have the option of logging into the new booking system where they'll be able to schedule a date, time, and site for vaccination.
Securing an appointment through the booking system will disable the automated allocation system used by the EVDS.
Integration with the EVDS, which currently has the capacity to process 2.5 million registrations in 15 minutes, is currently being tested with various stakeholders, according to Wolmarans.
"This should be ready to go live, if everything goes to plan [but] with technology, you never know, towards the end of the first week of August."
(Compiled by Luke Daniel)
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