The corona pandemic impacted our lives for two years and caused drastic changes to both our private and professional lives. In this fight against the pandemic, the use of modern technology significantly contributed to the overcoming of this crisis. The setup of a national vaccination monitoring in Switzerland illustrates how people working closely together and applying advanced technology can achieve great results in a very short time.
The pandemic began with the first emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2 or COVID-19) diseases in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and gradually spread throughout the world. To prevent the spread of the pandemic in Switzerland, the vaccination coverage of its population needed to be managed and monitored in a reliable way. However, no integrated data platform with a national scope existed at that time to meet such a need.
Early 2021, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) asked ELCA for its immediate support to setup an integrated data platform that could monitor and coordinate vaccination progresses. Almost overnight, ELCA articulated a solution based on Microsoft’s Azure platform, leveraging ELCA’s open-source framework Smart Data Lake Builder and a multi-qualified team. ELCA's proposition - next to solid references and the leverage of an experienced project manager - convinced FOPH's stakeholders, its Head of Digitization and its Director.
The importance and urgency of the matter required this venture to be set up and its MVP (Minimal Viable Product) to be put in operation within 5 days. True to its "We make it work" motto, ELCA met this ambitious and challenging goal to deliver the Vaccination Monitoring Data Lake (VMDL) in due time. Thanks to swift decision making and focused commitment from FOPH's management, the joint FOPH-ELCA project team started working on Decision‑Day+2.
Leveraging remote collaboration tools, each project member was able to add his piece within a collective work environment over four intensive days - along mandatory requirements to work from home - through the following sequences:
- Firstly, the datasets which were to be provided by the 26 cantons and Liechtenstein to the VMDL were specified in collaboration with cantonal representatives, with technical suppliers of the reporting systems (reporting units) and with the representatives of the VMDL.
- Secondly, the critical privacy protection for personal data was addressed: The anonymized vaccination information was transmitted by the reporting systems to the FOPH. This was achieved in two days and the build-up on the VMDL started at full speed. On Decision‑Day+5, the MVP of VMDL was deployed and made available to the reporting units for testing.
- Thirdly, the FOPH instructed each of the 26 cantons' and Liechtenstein authorities to deliver on-going vaccination events and data to the VMDL, according to the agreed dataset requirements.
Upon successful setup of the VMDL, ELCA and the FOPH transferred it to the project team responsible to bring new releases into production, with analysts specifying new requirements, developers implementing the new features or interfaces and testing each new release. On top, a dedicated ELCA service desk team started supporting the VMDL users - 26 cantons and Liechtenstein - and the reporting units to access the Data Lake platform and to deal with the management of the users.
Since the operational start, eight releases were put into production to adapt the platform to FOPH's new rules and regulations, e.g., changes to the dataset or implementation of the booster vaccination.
After almost a year of stable, reliable, and secure operation on the Azure platform, the solution and the service desk put in place by ELCA still provides the required data for the operation of the VMDL dashboard. The fulfillment of all initial requirements in such a short time frame, the dedicated support to the cantons' and Liechtenstein authorities as well as the implementation of all the newest features were only made possible by the Cloud services by Microsoft Azure, together with the seasoned ELCA's Smart Data Lake Builder framework. The use of Databricks allowed ELCA's team to set up an environment in just a few days, to start operations with minimal resources and to seamlessly grow along the increasing demand for the VMDL platform.
With the gradual increase of vaccine availability and the prioritization and dispatching rules of the vaccination activities, the pace of vaccinations continuously increased, leading the VMDL platform to process more than 250’000 daily vaccinations. More than 13 million vaccine doses had been managed and administered to the population in just 11 months.
In March 2022, the FOPH's dedicated project coordinator reflected on the close cooperation with ELCA: "We were impressed by ELCA’s capacity to build such a powerful platform in such a short time. We could quickly trust the reliability of the platform and could monitor it every month in the past year. Moreover, each new requirement of the FOPH can be economically implemented.”
This VMDL project together with ELCA's framework Smart Data Lake Builder highlights the value of the integrated data platform on Microsoft’s Azure platform. The VMDL platform is a key component for the vaccination planning and its logistic, as well as the central tool for communication to media representatives. The platform is agile because it can be continuously adapted to changing conditions, requirements and objectives, such as new types of vaccines or additional boosters. This existing platform can also be leveraged to handle and monitor other types of sanitary crisis.
During this VMDL project, ELCA drew on decades of corporate experience, the expertise of key people and its strong partnership with Microsoft to successfully take up a complex and mission-critical challenge under significant time pressure.