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Former TRAI chief RS Sharma to take over as CEO of National Health Authority

Former TRAI chief and UIDAI chairman Ram Sewak Sharma will take over as chief executive of the National Health Authority, which is the implementation body for Ayushman Bharat as well as the National Digital Health Mission, reported Business Standard. 

The appointment comes amidst rollout of India’s vaccination program against COVID-19; Sharma has recently been named the chairperson of the empowered committee for CoWIN, the government’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery platform. He will take charge on February 1, replacing Dr. Indu Bhushan, whose three-year term has concluded. 

India’s vaccine drive and the delivery platform CoWIN is closely linked with Health IDs, which are central to the National Digital Health Mission, as well as to Aadhaar.

Earlier this month, the Health Ministry announced that the CoWIN app — short COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network — will use an Aadhaar-based authentication system for the eventual rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. The CoWIN system will also allow for the creation of a Unique Digital Health ID for those being vaccinated. While the Ministry only said that those being vaccinated will have the option of generating a Unique Health ID, and seems to be voluntary, the Health Ministry had recently issued a gazette notification permitting the use of Aadhaar for generating Unique Health Identifiers (UHID) for citizens.

Soon after announcing possible Aadhaar authentication for vaccines, the Health Ministry urged states to eliminate “proxies” during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout by using Aadhaar to identify beneficiaries. Sharma had said that states needed to seed the beneficiaries’ current mobile number with Aadhaar for both registration and consequent communication.

The National Digital Health Mission aims to give every Indian a Health ID, which will contain a person’s medical history, doctor’s appointments, lab reports, and even payments. The Health ID was envisioned as a unique identifier created on the basis of mobile number, Aadhaar, or a government ID. 

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When the Mission was announced in August 2020, the National Health Authority was given the mandate “to design, build, roll-out and implement” it in the country. The National Health Authority is an attached office of the Health Ministry and is the central implementation agency for Ayushman Bharat. 

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