Irony of the digital state – vaccination using printed spreadsheets

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Diana Ingerainen. Source: ERR

Those on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis should not have to work with tools and methods from the previous century and should be able to concentrate on helping people in the crisis, family doctor Diana Ingerainen writes.

Estonia has always considered the digital state that consolidates services and saves everyone time and resources to be its pride and joy.

We have now reached the deepest part of the coronavirus crisis and I am forced to admit that what we have considered our pride and joy is seriously ailing. How else to characterize a situation where vaccination of teachers is kept track of using spreadsheets filling out and making sense of which is downright maddening.

Ideally, vaccination invitations could be sent out using our digital records system. The reality is that we are working with printed out spreadsheets where we input data by hand. The data then needs to be input into computers by hand that takes around 1.5 hours to finally result in an immunization report.

Having essential workers do this is irresponsible to say the least and criminal at worst. And yet, the state had the opportunity to come up with a better system during summer and early fall when we were given a reprieve from the virus. A mere opportunity it remained.

One wanted to believe that the process could be automated in a digital state, for example, by using a bar code to generate the report, while that remains a distant dream today.

We knew for a year in advance that we would take delivery of vaccines one fine day and have to immunize the entire country inside a certain period of time. We can see today that relevant preparations have been insufficient to say the least. There have been shortcomings in communication and work organization, while we can only dream about tools to make the job easier.

The most troubling aspect of all is constant uncertainty. Family doctors are on the front lines of vaccination and the first to meet dissatisfaction. The person does not care whether you are a family doctor, healthcare official or the person in charge of the country – they call in asking for their vaccine shot and family medicine centers must be able to tell them why if it is unavailable.

However, in a situation where the media is writing about cabinets full of unused vaccines, one might only speculate as to the questions this raises among citizens waiting to be inoculated. That is why it is important for the state to do everything in its power to make sure essential workers would not have to work with tools and methods from the previous century and could instead concentrate on what matters most in the crisis – helping people.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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