South Africa set to use barcodes to tracking and tracing COVID-19 vaccines

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The South African government is set to establish an electronic vaccination data system (EVDS) for management and surveillance of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr Anban Pillay, deputy director-general (DDG) at the Department of Health said that this establishment is to avail data needed for monitoring vaccine uptake and coverage, prioritization of the groups, planning, safety monitoring and vaccine effectiveness. The health DDG, who is also a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on vaccines, was speaking during a presentation of SA’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy on Sunday.

According to Pillay, the EVDS will leverage off existing electronic systems, which are currently deployed and implemented at scale. He detailed that the system will support the collection and provision of information such as patient demographics, the number of doses taken, the health establishment where this happened, vaccine administered, any adverse events that occurred, and a record of vaccination issued to individuals.

Pillay added that vaccine security is also an important issue. “We have learnt from the distribution in other countries that the safety and theft of vaccines is a problem. We will be tracking the vaccines and the vehicles moving them through,” he notes. “There’ll be track and trace of vaccines using barcode scanning as well as the safe and secure disposal of these packaging, vials and data verification linked to the volumes that have been submitted.”

South Africa is currently in the throes of a second wave of the coronavirus, which health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize described as affecting the country at much higher levels than the first wave. According to Pillay, the vaccine programme is intended to impact on the spread of COVID-19 across the country. He explained that government needs to look at the vaccines that are available and understand how best to procure and roll these out.

Due to the fact that the supply of the vaccine as well as the capacity to immunize people will take time in each group, government will take a phased approach to administer the vaccines, with the first phase being frontline healthcare workers. The target population, based on estimates, is about 1.2 million for the first phase.

Main Image: NS Medical Devices

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