“India is already working on putting a well-established vaccine delivery system in place. This digitised network along with digital health ID will be used to ensure immunisation [for COVID-19] of our citizens,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday.

India’s Digital Health program the National Digital Health Mission — which PM Modi announced on Independence day — has been rolling out in pilot in the union territories. As of September 9, 100,000 Health IDs had been issued across Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry, the implementation body National Health Authority had said.

“India is now at the forefront of vaccine development for COVID-19. Some of them are in advanced stages,” PM Modi said at the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting, which Bill Gates had also addressed. “Beyond COVID too, India is known for its proven capacity to produce quality medicines and vaccines at low cost” and “Over 60% of the vaccines used for immunisation globally was made in India”, he added.

Nilekani lays out Covid immunisation proposal using digital certificates

Aadhaar architect Nandan Nilekani on Monday once again pointed out the need for a vaccination system “unified by a digital backbone”. This “proposal” would involve a person authenticating their Aadhaar to get vaccinated. The person would get a digital certificate as proof of vaccination, this certificate would include the person’s name, vaccinator, which vaccine was used, along with the date, time, and location. This certificate can then be shown at a job interview, airport, railway station, bus stand etc. The former Infosys and UIDAI head said his proposal is vaccine-agnostic i.e. it doesn’t matter which vaccine eventually has to be administered, but how the immunisation and record-keeping could work. He expects this system to administer 10 million vaccinations a day.

What the National Digital Health Mission is: The Mission — which has evolved from the Health Stack to a digital health “blueprint” — seeks to create a digital health architecture, using health IDs, unique identifiers for doctors and health facilities, personal health records, and telemedicine and e-pharmacies, etc. PM Modi had said that “every Indian will be given a health ID”, which will contain a person’s medical history, including “all tests, every disease, which doctor gave you which medicine, when, what were your reports” and will also include doctors’ appointment, payments.

Govt’s Health Data Management Policy for the mission

After introducing a sandbox framework for the mission, the government had in August released the Draft Health Data Management Policy for data flowing within the mission. Adopting the Personal Data Protection Bill as a mainframe, the draft policy — released without any legal backing — laid out how health IDs, consent managers, and children’s personal data would be governed. and was released on Tuesday evening.

After public outcry and a court case, the government eventually extended a one-week consultation period to just under a month. The policy is essentially a personal data protection framework for health data, and is clearly drafted to be in harmony with the personal data protection law, whenever it comes in force.

The Personal Data Protection Bill is now being deliberated over by a parliamentary committee formed specifically for this purpose. The bill’s passage will follow due legislative process, which has already been delayed by the pandemic.

Read more: