Sunday World

Government must ensure security control for EVDS

- Sizwe Gwala •Gwala is data governance manager at Alexander Forbes

President Cyril Ramaphosa took a bold step in proclaimin­g a move from adjusted alert level three to level one, thereby enabling the resumption of most businesses in a near to normal state. Considerin­g the negative impact that previous lockdowns have had on the economy, it’s not rocket science that such a move is necessary. Though well-received by business, others regard the move as premature.

Those opposing the move deem it a step in the wrong direction, which will soon result in the country experienci­ng a third wave of infections. This move comes as more than 80 000 healthcare workers received their Johnson & Johnson jabs as part of the herd immunity plan. Next in line are the elderly, those with comorbidit­ies and institutio­nal workers, and then the general population.

Various Covid-19 education and awareness campaigns have unremittin­gly communicat­ed that a once-off vaccinatio­n, which can be in two doses depending on the vaccinatio­n administer­ed, is sufficient for the citizenry to be immunised. However, with growing panic, fear and anxiety, prospects are high that some citizens might attempt to get vaccinated multiple times on the premise that more vaccines would guarantee their safety.

In a move aimed at ensuring the adequate management, and surveillan­ce of vaccines, the health department deployed an electronic vaccinatio­n data system (EVDS) to ensure that the process is adequately managed, and that there’s fairness and transparen­cy in the distributi­on of vaccines.

This is an online self-enrollment portal that uses data to track vaccine-related informatio­n. Critical data categories required for its effectiven­ess are: patient informatio­n including demographi­cs and number of doses; safety informatio­n such as possible adverse events following immunisati­on; and vaccine administra­tion sites details.

These data sets are sensitive in nature and ought to be safely handled in line with regulatory requiremen­ts, more so as health data has recently been highly targeted by cybercrimi­nals since the dawn of the pandemic.

It’s concerning that the theft and sale of data is highly lucrative worldwide, and health data in particular, is in high demand as some organisati­ons are prepared to go the extra mile in accessing data, exposing vulnerabil­ities in the health system and thereafter strategica­lly position themselves to solicit funds from unsuspecti­ng organisati­ons.

Check Point, a leading cyber security solutions company, reported a 45% global increase in cyber crimes targeted at hospitals and healthcare organisati­ons since November. South Africa recorded an increase from approximat­ely 430 incidents per organisati­on in October 2020 to 626 in December last year, with ransomware attacks being common attack techniques. By virtue of it being positioned as a central vaccinatio­n coordinati­ng system, it is without doubt that the EVDS master data repository will be highly targeted by cybercrimi­nals. The health department ought to ensure that it has highly effective data privacy and security controls.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa