25 Jun 2021

Ministry of Health details Covid-19 vaccination online booking tool

7:02 pm on 25 June 2021

The Ministry of Health has detailed how the Covid-19 vaccination online booking tool will work.

Watch here:

About 100,000 doses are being done every week, but this will ramp up to as much as 70,000 a day using the new system - with the aim to have given out 7 million doses by the end of the year.

Deputy Director-General of data and digital Shayne Hunter says people will not receive an invitation to book until it is their turn even if they register their details.

"The new system can handle high volumes of bookings," he says, and it is the first time it has been used in New Zealand. It is used worldwide and has just been launched in Western Australia.

Those who prefer to get some help can call the national helpline.

The online booking system will be live from 28 July and National Digital Services group manager Michael Dreyer says the system is being continuously updated.

Earlier in June, the government laid out its vaccine rollout plan for the general population in group 4 who can start getting the vaccine from late July.

Dreyer says Book My Vaccine is for anyone in group 4 - consisting of more than 2 million people - and those in the other tiers who have not been vaccinated yet.

Those over 60 will be invited to book from 28 July - an email, letter, text or phone call will alert people that they can now book.

Two weeks after that, those aged 55 years and older can sign up for a vaccine, with those younger in staggered brackets after that.

How to use the system

Booking is very straightforward and easy, Dreyer says.

People will be first asked to book a location, then date and time, book two appointments at least 21 days apart and then supply a few details to help with streamlining the process when people show up for their vaccination.

An email or text will confirm the booking - if people need to change they can click on the confirm details and rebook.

People will need to make two bookings three weeks apart to get fully vaccinated, Hunter says.

A practical demonstration of the booking tool was shown to those attending the briefing.

Bookings can be made on others' behalf.

Providing details will help ensure "a fast and slick experience" when people present for their vaccination.

Reminder notices will be sent to people the day before they are due to be vaccinated.

GPs will receive notices of people being vaccinated.

No ID required

There will be no specific requirement to show ID when arriving to get a vaccination. However, people get a QR code that can be scanned.

While some walk-ins may be possible, it is preferred people use the booking system, Hunter says. Otherwise people may want to get in touch with their GPs.

People should wait until they are invited and do the right thing - not try and get vaccinated before their turn, Hunter says.

"We have a sequence of age-groups we want to bring through," he says, adding they will not be verifying the age people say they are, for equity reasons.

"Some people will no doubt want to try it on, so to speak, but I would just encourage people to actually wait until their turn.

"But if people want to front up looking like a 30 year old, when we're dealing with [the] 65 year old plus [age range] then, I mean, that's really over to them.

"But we would encourage people to just stick with the plan which is to wait until you're invited or wait until your age group's eligible."

The work behind it

Hunter says the booking system is made by an overseas company and is used in the US and Australia, but it was adapted and tested for New Zealand's needs by a local firm.

The system costs less than $3 million to build, but hundreds of people have been involved at the back end - including the various DHBs uploading all the information about where and when people can get the jab.

Hunter says the vaccine programme has been a gargantuan undertaking.

"It's been extraordinary. It has been massive beyond belief in terms of what we've actually had to do.

"From securing a vaccine in a world where everybody was trying to secure a vaccine to actually standing up a program to deliver at a level of scale that we've never had to do before."

A large promotional effort will be made about the launch time to advertise it.

Speaking of the development, he says it's been beyond belief what has been achieved - up to 10 million doses will be delivered. He says the team has been "phenomenal" and have "done the country proud".

Asked how long it has taken to develop the system, Hunter says it's been a couple of months since it went into DHBs' systems, and a couple of months work before that went into development.

The immunisation programme and managing the vaccine and safety monitoring have all been prioritised ahead of developing Manage My Booking, he says.

Hunter says it was always intended to use the tool when the country moved to mass vaccination of the general population.

The system can handle hundreds of thousands of bookings, he says.

"We have a pretty good register of people who are registered with a general practice," he says.

All consumer data is being treated very seriously, the briefing is told.

"We have done significant work on privacy," Hunter says in relation to a question on data security. Data security people from outside the ministry have reviewed the system.

"We've had independent assurance of it, we've had independent penetration testing. We're not going to assure it ourselves so we've actually had third parties do that for us."

The team have tried to make the system accessible for disabled people although he says he is not across the specifics.

Many hundreds of vaccination sites have had to be entered into the system, as well as dates and times. "There's quite a lot of work in the background..."

A team of people are responsible for rolling out training for using the system at all the country's vaccination centres. "We haven't rushed it but we have gone quickly," Hunter says, adding he is confident that no steps have been missed.

'It's a single system used by everybody."

With second bookings, he says it is varying around the world in terms of the number of days / weeks required. The ministry has gone with a minimum of 21 days gap. Reminders will be sent to those who book only one dose - that will be the DHBs' responsibility.

Dreyer says the DHBs' booking records will be migrated into the ministry's system. The biggest one is the northern DHBs' 100,000 current bookings. All this work is due to be completed by the end of the month.

Group 4 rollout plan

From 28 July, those 60 and over will be able to get inoculated. Then from 11 August, the over 55s can will have their turn.

Gradually, and depending on vaccine supply, bookings will open up to over 45s in mid to late August, followed by the over 35s in mid to late September.

Everyone will become eligible to get the vaccine from October.

There's no cut off once an age band has been announced.

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