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CoWin App Tech: A Comparison With What Other Countries Are Doing

A closer look at how other countries are leveraging technology in dealing with vaccine management. 

Published
Cyber
4 min read
Kolkata: A healthcare worker prepares to vaccinate beneficiaries during the COVID-19 dry run for immunisation activity in Kolkata. (File Photo: Kuntal Chakrabarty/IANS)
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The CoWin software, designed to be the digital nervecentre of India’s COVID-19 vaccination process, was found to be suffering delays in informing people about their vaccine dates, lagging in retrieving data and generating QR code certificates for vaccinated patients, and even system failures in some places.

The Quint takes a look at what some of the other countries are doing with their vaccination programmes and how they’re leveraging technology to get their citizens COVID-19 vaccine jabs.

What Issues Did CoWin Face?

The Maharashtra government late on 16 January suspended the COVID-19 vaccination drive in the state till Tuesday, 19 January, owing to technical glitches in the CoWin software. While the process wasn’t suspended, similar glitches were seen in Haryana, Assam and Punjab as well.

In Mumbai, several doctors and health workers who received their first vaccine shots on 16 January told The Quint that they have only received small paper chits as the sole evidence of the vaccine shots.

Moreover, The Quint had recently reported that the CoWin App does not have a specific privacy policy, raising questions on the manner in which the data of citizens if stores, shared and processed.

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Dubai: Vaccine Jab Notification

Dubai has an app called SEHA, somewhat similar to CoWIn. The app allows citizens of Dubai to book an appointment, something CoWin will enable in the later phases of the vaccination process.

However, a key difference in SEHA and CoWin lies in the the post-vaccination experience.

Gulf News Associate Editor Yousra Zaki recorded a first person experience of getting the vaccine and using the app.

She writes, “I was then given a file with details about my second dose, which was scheduled automatically 21 days from the first dose. I was sent an SMS by SEHA almost immediately.”

However, The Quint had reported that doctors in Mumbai who got their jabs had a different experience.

Dr Russell Pinto, a Mumbai-based surgeon, said while the vaccination process at the Bandra-Kurla Complex was smooth, a number of questions remain. “The only proof of the vaccination I have is a small chit which has my in time and out time. There isn’t any other way to prove I have got my first dose,” he told The Quint.

“The chit only has the in-time and out-time and no other information,” he added.

Dr Pinto raises two other specific concerns which, he says, are yet to be addressed. “Without the CoWin app working properly, I have not got any proper communication about the the exact data of my second dose,” he said adding “while I have been told it is on 13 February, others have been asked to come on the 15th”.

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Estonia: Blockchain & Vaccine Passports

WHO and Estonia agreed in October 2020 to collaborate on developing a digitally enhanced International Certificate of Vaccination, a “smart yellow card” to help strengthen the effectiveness of the COVAX initiative, established to speed development and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, reprots ZDNet.

Dubbed VaccineGuard, the platform's goal is to link between various agents, “from the vaccine's point of manufacture all the way to the border guard controlling an individual traveller,” the report says.

Similar to CoWin, when administering a vaccine, healthcare providers will be required to generate a digital certificate in the form of a QR code, which patients could in turn access via email, through an app or as a printout.

With CoWin, however, the QR code will only be provided to those who register on the app. The app doesn’t use blockhain technology’s distributed and verified ledger system to track vaccination.

in Estonia, on the other hand, using blockchain technology, vaccine manufacturers will be able to serialise the vials they produce, creating a birth certificate of sorts so that products can be tracked all the way to their point of administration.

According to the ZDNet story, “This will not only play a key role in ensuring that no jabs are counterfeit, but also enable health authorities to check that the number of vaccine certifications issued on the platform match the number of vaccines that were actually delivered and administered.”

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Israel & Health Data

On the privacy front, Israel, which has been at the forefront of getting its population vaccinated with nearly 20 percent of the population reportedly already being inoculated, has a digitised health network with privacy protections.

Israel has a mandatory public health system connected to a nationwide digital network. Health maintenance organisations keep digital records of all patients, allowing any authorised computer to extract people's medical data since birth — including past hospitalisations, prescribed medications and vaccinations.

Prime Minister Netanyahu revealed on 7 January that Israel struck an agreement with Pfizer to exchange citizens’ data for 10 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, including a promise of shipments of 400,000-700,000 doses every week. However, no identifying information will be given in order to maintain some privacy.

Under this agreement, Israel will provide details to Pfizer (as well as and the World Health Organization) about the age, gender and medical history of those receiving the jab as well as its side effects and efficacy.

The Quint had reported that CoWin App does not have a specific privacy policy. An app’s privacy policy specifies how it collects, stores, processes and shares data pertaining to individuals.

“The privacy policy hyperlinked to the app redirects to the Health Data Management Policy, 2020,” SFLC.In adds.

This Health Data Management Policy, 2020, essentially asserts the government's intent to promote the newly-announced national health ID, along with the national health stack.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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