Large-scale vaccination programs in the Cloud
The Tony Blair Institute (TBI) and Oracle have brought cloud technology to Africa to manage public health programs. Initially, Ghana, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone will use the new Oracle Health Management System to create electronic health records for their vaccination programs for yellow fever, HPV, polio, measles, and COVID-19, as soon as that vaccine is distributed to Africa.
The partnership aligned with African governments to manage in the Cloud – over 73,000 people vaccinated and registered in the first 8 days in Ghana.
TBI and Oracle are in discussions with more than thirty other countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America that are evaluating using the same cloud system to manage their COVID-19 vaccination programs.
“Since February of this year, the Africa Union and Member States have worked tirelessly together to address the impact of COVID-19 on the continent,” said Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, partnerships such as this one with Oracle, TBI and various governments are critical to the strengthening of Member State public health institutions, not only to incorporate innovative technology but to proactively and urgently harmonize the collection and sharing of important testing data across the continent.”
TBI has been providing policy advice and hands-on support to African governments as they tackle complex COVID-19 challenges. To address these challenges, TBI partnered with Oracle to deliver cloud technology to digitize 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 each 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 ten years.
“This is an immensely exciting and potentially ground-breaking initiative for recording information on all disease vaccinations and treatments in African nations,” said Tony Blair, Executive Chairman of TBI and the former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. “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 digitization 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.”
“The Oracle Health Management System is currently being used by the U.S. government and large healthcare and research organizations 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. Africa is leading the way.”
Bringing Cloud technology for electronic health records to Africa
Ghana is now using the system to manage its yellow fever vaccine program and will follow with COVID-19 once that vaccine is distributed in Africa.
Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo said, “We have learned many lessons from this pandemic. The most obvious is that we have to urgently fortify our public health systems. This strategic partnership with Oracle and TBI is evidence of our drive to digitalize Ghana’s health systems for our people’s benefit.”
“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 authorized persons. The data will be more secure, and there will be no worry about lost cards as people travel,” added Dr. Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, Expanded Programme on Immunization, Ghana Health Service.
Hear more from Dr. Kwane Amponsa-Achiano here.
Rwanda has 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 called for a resilient health system as the best defense against future pandemics: “A COVID-19 vaccine will be a critical tool, and Africa must be able to access to its fair share of a vaccine once it is available. This partnership will deliver an innovative digital vaccine e-registry that signals the continent’s readiness to deploy the vaccine and to safely reopen our economies to trade and tourism.”
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. It is estimated to prevent two to three million childhood deaths globally each year from these diseases. Sierra Leone’s EPI program reportedly covers 95% of eligible children in that country.
Chief Innovation Officer and Minister of Education of Sierra Leone, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh, noted, “The Government of Sierra Leone is committed to utilizing technology and innovation – digitizing services to improve service delivery for its citizens. Using our experience from Ebola, we were able to put together a robust National COVID-19 Response plan, which has technology, data, and innovation as core enablers. 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 digitization for all.”
As countries begin vaccinating people for COVID-19, the Oracle Health Management System can be used to automatically create an electronic health record for every person vaccinated. Once the COVID-19 vaccine is available, the Oracle Health Management System will track immunizations and provide recipients with a Digital Quick Response (QR) code. These QR codes will help Africa reopen its borders and economies by providing citizens the proof of immunization needed to move freely for work and travel.
TBI’s Government Advisory Practice directly supports leaders in their on-the-ground fight against COVID-19, and our Policy Futures unit is delivering analysis and advice to help countries mitigate the economic impact, source essential equipment, harness the power of technology, and position themselves for the rebuilding to come.
The tech revolution can be accelerated in Africa and other emerging and developing countries, not only to deal with COVID-19, but also to embed robust health care systems that will benefit citizens, and beyond health, to digitize public services and the economy.