As lockdown is being relaxed in most countries in the world, the need for digital technology in the distribution of vaccines cannot be overemphasized.
Today, individuals can now test for the coronavirus in the comfort of their times by carrying out a PCR Swab test-testing their mucus or saliva for the virus and sending it to our private clinic located in Leicester Square London. They can also travel by air as long as they pass the Fit-to-fly test requested by most airlines today.
But is this enough?
Vaccination is a high-priority activity in the battle against the coronavirus global pandemic. Reaching high coverage and speed of vaccine deployment is key to commencing an inclusive and resilient recovery of our economies and societies.
Crises and pandemics always attract technological solutions with mixed success. To balance the opportunities and address the risks associated with digital solutions, countries must make informed, context-appropriate technology, and design choices. The ability for these solutions to help, rather than hinder, also depends on a country’s digital readiness, such as the quality and coverage of its internet, digital literacy of workers and the population, and data protection and cybersecurity.
Digital technologies can help countries to face the scale and complexity of coronavirus vaccine delivery by supporting functions across the vaccine deployment lifecycle, from planning and management, to supply and distribution, program delivery, and post-vaccination.
Countries on the other hand can leverage digital technologies to make this herculean goal easier. This includes the deployment of scalable, credible, and interoperable software solutions to identify and prioritize recipients of vaccines, track inventory/supply chains, distribute doses efficiently, monitor uptake, effectiveness, and adverse events in real-time, and provide certificates as proof of vaccination.
However, before deploying new solutions, it is crucial for countries to first assess the potential of their existing digital structure to address Coronavirus’s response to specific needs and to check if their investments can contribute to longer-term digital health initiatives. Where possible, solutions should align with the whole-of-government digital infrastructure and initiatives.
Deploying digital solutions also requires the creation of safeguards. This is important because data protection and cybersecurity are important not just in the financial sector but also in the health sector considering how the health sector has been facing increased cyber-attacks during the pandemic. In this respect, the use of decentralized technologies for digital vaccine certificates provides an opportunity to empower people with control over their data.
In conclusion, there is no singular solution that can address all the functions of the delivery lifecycle. Countries will most likely desire a variety of solutions designed in a modular, interoperable and understandable manner such that they can work and talk together seamlessly
For this reason, World Bank’s Digital Development and Health, Nutrition, and Population Global Practices is working to monitor developments around the world and advise countries on how to navigate their immediate needs to support successful vaccination campaigns, as well as how to influence longer-term opportunities for investments today to build sustainable, foundational digital health infrastructure to transform how healthcare is delivered. This hopefully would help countries become resilient to the next health crisis.