Victoria’s online vaccination booking platform is still not in use despite the state government purchasing the system from Microsoft in mid-January for nearly $6 million.
The Victorian government bought Microsoft’s Vaccination Registration and Administrations Solutions program more than four months ago, and at the time said that it only needed “fine-tuning” before it could be launched.
But amid another outbreak in the state and a fourth lockdown, Victorians can still only make bookings to receive the COVID-19 vaccination via a 1800 phone hotline, which has struggled under increased demand following the opening up of eligibility for anyone aged 40 years and older.
The state government has said the vaccine booking platform will be properly up and running in the coming weeks, and that it wasn’t made a priority previously due to low levels of vaccines on offer and low demand prior to the recent outbreak
In mid-January the Victorian government signed a $5.8 million, six-month contract with Microsoft to purchase the tech giant’s existing vaccination booking system, after a whirlwind five-day tender process in late 2020.
At the time, the state government said the platform would be “fine-tuned” to suit Victoria’s needs.
The platform facilitates registration, scheduling of appointments, automatic replenishment of supplies and the tracking and tracing of prescriptions and deliveries of Covid-19 vaccinations, using data and artificial intelligence solutions.
The Microsoft vaccination platform will be used by individuals and healthcare providers offering the vaccine, and will work alongside the HealthEngine booking platform developed by the federal government.
Despite the Victorian government opening up eligibility for the vaccine last week, the booking platform is still not in use, with Victorians having to call a hotline to make their bookings. Soon after this announcement was made, the hotline experienced delays and issues due to an increase in demand.
Over the weekend, several individuals were able to access a test version of the bookings platform, with some even able to book in for a vaccination before it was taken offline.
The Victorian government soon confirmed that this was the real test site, and that bookings made through it would be honoured.
“Victoria’s online vaccine booking system is currently in test mode, preparing for launch. It will be available for use soon,” the Victorian government Twitter account posted.
The state’s Covid-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said the new platform was expected to be up and running within weeks, rather than months.
“We will launch the online portal when we are confident it will be a good option for people to use,” Mr Weimar told reporters.
“We were standing here a week ago with low levels of demand for vaccination across the network.”
The federal government earlier this year paid HealthEngine nearly $4 million for a Covid-19 vaccination bookings platform as part of its end-to-end vaccination information and bookings service.
That platform is primarily used by pharmacies and other health clinics without existing booking systems.
The Victorian government has awarded a number of significant contracts to large tech companies throughout the pandemic.
Late last year it was revealed that a $4 million IBM platform purchased by the state government to assist with its contact tracing was scrapped within days after it was discovered it did not have the artificial intelligence and predictive capabilities required.
This was a “misguided and costly mistake”, a parliamentary committee found.
The Victorian government also last year implemented a new Salesforce-based CRM platform for assisting with contact tracing efforts. The Salesforce platform automatically begins the process of contact tracing with automated SMS technology and two-way messages.
The state government opted to implement this system in late August, five months after it was first offered by the US tech giant.
The Boston Consulting Group was paid more than $11 million as part of the shift to this digitised contact tracing method, after fellow consulting giant Deloitte had already been paid $5 million to start this process.
In February this year UK-based tech consultancy Contino was paid $3.8 million for “ongoing support and development” of this contact tracing platform.