- A unique health ID number is causing confusion among several people who are seeing it for the first time on their vaccine certificates.
- The number is seemingly being generated at the vaccine centres without the people's consent.
- Only some basic information is needed to generate a person's health ID.
More than 19 crore Indians have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to date, as per the latest data by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The number stands tall amid a nation battling a severe outbreak of the disease for the second time since the pandemic began last year. However, the increasing number of vaccinations has shed light on yet another drive that seems to be ongoing away from the general information of the citizens.
People who have received their first dose of vaccination against Covid-19 are observing a Unique Health ID (UHID) or Health ID on their vaccine certificate. While some have been aware of such an initiative by the government of India, many are not clear on its purpose just yet. The new form of identification is hence fast becoming a cause of confusion and concern among citizens.
What is even more perplexing for people is that they have seemingly no idea of how this ID was formed. An increasing number of posts on social media platforms point out that there was no "consent" taken or information provided to the users before the generation of this UHID.
However alien the UHID may seem, note that it is not a new concept and has been highlighted by the government of India on several occasions before. Here is a look at what exactly is the Health ID as per the government.
What is a health ID?
The health ID comes as a part of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) initiative by the government of India. As per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, NDHM is aimed to enable a seamless integration of digital health infrastructure in the country. In short, the initiative is a step towards digitising healthcare in India.
For NDHM to work, the plan is to employ a series of digital systems across the healthcare infrastructure in the country. These systems will collectively cover healthcare facilities, workers, health records and, of course, patients and their medical histories.
Health ID is one such key system to enable NDHM. As per information shared on the NDHM website, health IDs will help "standardise the process of identification of an individual across healthcare providers." The website says that this is the only way to ensure that the created medical records "are issued to the correct individual or accessed by Health Information User through appropriate consent."
The website clearly indicates that once generated, these Health IDs will be used for the purposes of "uniquely identifying persons, authenticating them, and threading their health records (only with the informed consent of the patient) across multiple systems and stakeholders."
In a nutshell, health IDs will be the master key to all individuals' health records from across locations and healthcare facilities.
The "informed consent"
Now, this is where the concept of health IDs becomes a little mind-boggling for anyone who has come across the term recently. While their intended use is crystal clear, who generated them for all those being vaccinated is a question no one seems to have an answer to.
Numerous tweets on the issue have revealed that almost none of those who got vaccinated had a pre-existing UHID.
What's more, a deliberate attempt at the NDHM website to generate a health ID will get you the following response -
"Currently, health IDs can be made only in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, Ladakh, Lakshadweep and Puducherry."
This means that even a conscious attempt at creating a health ID by citizens of most parts of the country will not let them have one, as of now. There is, then, no way that those who received a UHID on their vaccine certificate did so intentionally, from a portal other than the ones being used for vaccine registration.
Hence, the Covid-19 vaccination drive is the one clear way through which the health IDs are being generated as of now.
This is also in line with what MoHFW indicates in an FAQ page on its website, stating that any "Public Hospital, Community Health Centre, Health and Wellness Centre across India or any Healthcare provider who is in the National Health Infrastructure Registry" will be able to support users to obtain a Health ID.
Since most of these have become the centres for vaccination in pandemic-hit India, it is only likely that the health IDs are being generated at the vaccination centres using the available information of those getting vaccinated.
The question then arises if the consent of users was taken at the time of issuance of this health ID? Almost all of the tweets mentioned above claim that they were not informed of a UHID being generated for them at all.
Neither was I, and since I have not visited a hospital with a serious ailment since the late 2000s, I am sure I did not have a pre-existing UHID.
If you have had a similar experience with UHID that you see for the first time on your vaccine certificate, chances are it was generated at the vaccine centre you got your first jab against Covid-19 at.
The information required
So what is this information that is required for generating a health ID? As per the MoHFW website, all that is needed for the registration of a Health ID is - "Name, Year of Birth, Gender, and Mobile Number or Email."
Note that the website specifies that Aadhaar is NOT mandatory for registering for a health ID. It says that the "process of generation of Health ID has voluntary usage of Aadhaar" and shall require a "notification under Section 4 of Aadhaar Act."
It clears that those interested can create their health account using their basic demographic details along with "digitally authenticable Mobile Number or Email ID," all of which is available with your vaccination centre at the time of getting vaccinated.
Then again, it was observed recently that many vaccine centers mandated people to bring their Aadhaar cards at the time of their vaccination. The mandate was implied even on those who had originally registered on the CoWin portal using a different identification.
It was observed in a specific case that the Aadhaar card mandate was put up as a system-level requirement on the vaccination centre, making it compulsory for everyone at the centre to share Aadhaar card details. You can read all about this here.