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Our View: Vaccine portal problems cannot be dismissed as teething troubles

Photo: CNA

Recognising that the voters may have tired of listening to their daily tirades about the golden passports, opposition parties found a new angle of attack on the government – the vaccination appointment portal.

“Citizens want to be vaccinated, but the ‘portal’ an incompetence of the Disy government does not permit them,” said Diko on Friday, the day after the portal stayed closed because of ‘technical problems’. Αkel was more scathing in its criticism, saying “citizens are paying for the incompetence of the government, which cannot even operate an internet portal,” and demanding the sacking of those responsible “for the fiasco of the vaccination programme,” a view shared by Edek.

The reaction was to be expected. There are parliamentary elections in three weeks and an opportunity of some negative campaigning could not be passed by opposition parties, especially on an issue that interests everyone. Their criticism was justified, given the government’s number one priority, indisputably, is to have as many people vaccinated in the shortest possible time. This is not going to happen with a malfunctioning, badly conceived and designed portal.

Deputy minister for innovation and digital policy, Kyriakos Kokkinos, said action was taken to minimise the technical problems but could not give assurances these would not resurface, because technology was continuously developing. It was not a very convincing explanation for the problems which have much more to do with poor executive decisions and bad design.

The worst decision was to make the vaccination portal part of the Gesy portal, when it should have been standalone, given the vital importance of the vaccination programme. There could have been a way of checking that people were registered with Gesy, but this would have made vaccination available to those that were not registered, be they illegal immigrants, asylum seekers and people with private health insurance, as they can also pass on the virus. Access, via phone, should also have been given to people without computers or smart phones.

Then there was the issue of giving everyone access to book an appointment and choose make of vaccine that ensured everyone tried to get on the portal as soon as it opened, clogging up the system and causing it to crash. This has been partially addressed by giving users numbers, and making them wait until their turn came, although there was no prior explanation causing many people to log out and lose their turn.

These cannot be dismissed as teething problems. They are serious flaws in the system that are delaying the vaccination programme. So far only 9.9 per cent of the population have had both vaccinations and only 30 per cent at least one jab. Under the circumstances the health ministry’s claim it would have 60 per cent of the population fully vaccinated by the end of June seems a bit over-optimistic, given how things are going at present.

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