Digital Health ID Not Mandatory for Covid Vaccine, Health Ministry Clarifies Day after PM's Statement

Nikhil Ghanekar
·2-min read

A digital health identity (ID) would not be mandatory to get vaccinated in the future against coronavirus, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry’s clarification came during its weekly briefing on the COVID-19 situation in India, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India will make use of the new digital health ID’s under National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), to ensure immunisation of citizens. Modi had launched NDHM from the ramparts of the Red Fort during the PM’s annual Independence Day speech.

“The NDHM does not make a digital ID or health ID mandatory to receive service under the digital ecosystem that NDHM is creating. To say it would become mandatory for vaccination and those who do not have health ID’s would be deprived is probably not the right interpretation,” said Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Union Health Ministry.

Bhushan clarified further that akin to the voting process wherein a registered voter is allowed to use multiple options as photo ID at the polling booth, citizens can get vaccinated using other proofs.

“It would be almost like an electoral scenario where multiple ID’s are prescribed beforehand so that no one is deprived of the benefits of voting or in this case vaccination on the designated day,” said Bhushan.

Responding to a query regarding concerns surrounding privacy and data protection law in the context of digital health IDs, Bhushan said the ministry has received over 7,000 public comments and suggestions on the draft health data management policy and the government is suitably refining the policy based on the comments, he added.

In his speech during the ‘Grand Challenges Annual Meeting’ on Monday, Modi had said, “India is already working on putting a well-established caccine delivery system in place and this digitised network along with digital health ID will be used to ensure immunisation of our citizens. He pointed that India is known for its proven capacity to produce quality medicines and vaccines at low cost. More than 60 percent of the vaccines for global immunisation are being manufactured in India.”

The NDHM was launched in six states and union territories on a pilot basis following its launch on August 15 and over a lakh digital health IDs have already been created.

As part of NDHM, a digital eco-system for health services will be created and a unique health ID can be made by each citizen voluntarily. Under this mission, personal health records, unique health identifiers, health master directories on human resources and hospitals will be made digitally available and it will be stored on community cloud infrastructure. The electronic health records of an individual can be accessed across systems with consent and they can be updated as and when the person accesses healthcare.