Government & Policy
Feds seeking Covid management IT system
December 16, 2020
OTTAWA – The federal government is searching for a national system to help manage the distribution and tracking of COVID-19 vaccinations. While hospitals and public health officials have started to administer the vaccines in Canada, Ottawa is anxious to be able to monitor the extent to which the population has been inoculated and to keep tabs on possible side-effects and reactions.
In November, the federal government sent a draft proposal for the system to seven large technology, accounting and consulting companies, the Globe and Mail reported. Rather than making this an open tender, meaning any company can submit proposals and bids, Ottawa invited just seven companies to apply: information technology firm CGI Inc.; computer giant IBM; and accounting and consulting firms Deloitte Inc., Ernst & Young LLP, KPMG LLP, Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP, and Accenture Inc.
Only the Montreal-based CGI is Canadian. Public Services and Procurement Canada says the firms were chosen based on information technology and security requirements. Because the request for proposals is still a draft, it does not indicate cost or a firm timeline.
The system would need to track many aspects of vaccine logistics, from its delivery into Canada, to its distribution to points across the country, monitoring of its storage and shelf life, and analyzing the immunity of the population at large.
One of the possible contractors, IBM Canada Ltd., was instrumental in building Panorama, the digital health record system that does many of the things Ottawa is asking from its new platform. The system was developed with $150-million in federal money.
In recent months, the province of Ontario moved away from Panorama, opting instead to develop its own system for public health.
The platform sought by the federal government must allow provinces to place orders, track adverse effects from the vaccinations, and ensure the vaccines are distributed before their shelf-life expires. The technology will “ensure rapid and successful management of the COVID-19 vaccine administration program across the nation.”
The new system would need to work alongside Panorama and other systems being used in public health.
For its part, PHAC said until it gets this new system, it is using “existing data and IT systems to manage COVID-19 vaccine rollout, administration, and immunization reporting.” The request for proposals, PHAC says, is about “enhancing the capabilities of its information systems to adapt to the monitoring of new COVID-19 vaccines and their unique requirements, including storage at very cold temperature.”
The procurement documents reveal Ottawa is seeking its national vaccine management information technology platform quickly. Theresa Tam (pictured), Canada’s chief public health officer, has said Canada needs something to augment the information technology platforms and to support the different systems.
Federal documents obtained by the Globe and Mail say the “intelligent supply chain” Ottawa is looking for “will be the core foundational capability to ensure the minimum operation of the National Operation Centre managing the national rollout of the vaccine.”
The mass immunization against COVID-19 will likely be one of the largest and most complex health efforts undertaken by Canada in modern history. Tens of millions of doses of vaccines are due to arrive in the coming months.
The Pfizer vaccine, the first to be approved for use in Canada, needs to be stored at -70°C. An information sheet provided by Pfizer reads that the vaccines will be shipped with a supply of dry ice, keeping them at the ultralow temperature, but that the ice will need to be replenished every five days if they are to be stored long-term.
Some vaccines will require two doses, others just one. “This mission-critical system will provide supply chain management of short shelf life vaccine products … and end-to-end traceability, and visibility of the demand, inventory, and distribution of the vaccines,” the documents read.
The second piece of the platform, an “immunization information system,” will provide analytics and “detect patterns of vaccination in the community.” It will also monitor adverse reactions, alerting PHAC to possible bad batches, or to broader problems of allergic reactions. Early results show the Pfizer vaccine may cause reactions in those with strong allergies.
The final part of the system is an “immunization program management” tool, which would help PHAC manage vaccinations for Indigenous communities and veterans.