Science, Technology, and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has announced that Malaysia and Singapore will be using blockchain technology to issue vaccine certificates
The minister made the announcement in a Facebook post after meeting Singapore Foreign Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan in Putrajaya on Tuesday, 23 March.
"Both Malaysia and Singapore are using blockchain technology to issue their vaccine certificate," Khairy wrote.
"The interoperability between the two systems will be crucial especially when taking into account standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and other countries."
A Bernama report added that both countries' vaccination certificates that are secured by blockchain technology will come with a traceability feature that tells the exact batch of the vaccine vial used for inoculation.
If you did not already know, blockchain technology was invented alongside the invention of Bitcoin.
While Bitcoin serves as a decentralised currency on the front, the underlying blockchain technology is the one that powers the cryptocurrency and it later overspilled into other innovations.
Essentially, blockchain is a public ledger that is able to record any information and it cannot be tempered by anyone — including the owner of the information, the creator of the public ledger, or the government.
The information can be also verified by anyone in the world within seconds.
Such technology does not only offer transparency, but also impeccable security — two qualities that are crucial in a time when there is rampant public distrust against vaccine information and reliance on digitalisation amidst the pandemic.
Although Khairy did not elaborate on how blockchain would help vaccination traceability, the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) had in the past explained why such technology is vital
According to another Bernama report published on 2 March, MOSTI Deputy Minister Datuk Ahmad Amzad Hashim said that blockchain can also be used on other vaccines and medications other than COVID-19 vaccines.
"Blockchain can be used to confirm the veracity of medication, and this will provide proof of the medication from manufacture to use [...]. For example, blockchain can be used to trace vaccines from the factory until the administration level and distribution," Ahmad Amzad said in a statement.
He added that the blockchain can also be used to improve access to patients' medical records, which he lamented that as of now, database from one hospital cannot 'speak' with another hospital
The deputy minister said the problem persists due to different operations and equipment specifications in different hospitals, adding that such a problem causes a low level of efficiency between different hospitals when dealing with the same patient.
"Blockchains that can be accessed universally will enable data to be accessed by related parties safely and securely. [Access] can be given by patients, using smart contracts," he explained.
"This not only places control of your health data in the individual's hands, but also reduces the time for accurate treatment."
Ahmad Amzad's explanation here echoed Khairy's statement of the 'interoperability' between two systems in Malaysia and Singapore. Meaning, Malaysia can verify a Singaporean's vaccination history without having the need to access their hospital records based in their country, and vice versa.
The MOSTI deputy minister also said that blockchain can help speed up the process of medical insurance claims as patients' medical history is no longer spread across different doctors, clinics, and hospitals.
The technology can also help reduce the occurrence of insurance scams due to its non-tamperable nature.
MOSTI — together with the assistance from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and MIMOS Berhad — had earlier this month began testing blockchain technology at the proof-of-concept stage.