Quebec spent more than $9 million setting up its vaccination card, which went into effect in fall 2021. Surprisingly, the contract was signed after the product was delivered.
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Lévis company Akinox Solutions was awarded $9.13 million to develop the vaccination record and immunization card, according to a contract recently published in Quebec’s electronic tender system.
Part of a previous contract totaling $10.2 million also enabled certain preparatory work for the implementation of the VaxiCode and VaxiCode Verif mobile applications, as well as QR to validate users’ vaccination status.
The total amount of the operation is unknown, but the Department of Health assures that it is “around $9 million”. “The cost breakdown is not shared,” his spokesman said.
The draft law initially alarmed industry insiders. In comparison, the federal government’s COVID Alert application, which notified users who came into contact with an infected person, cost $3.5 million to develop and maintain.
However, Akinox Solutions ensures that the amount includes many related elements such as hosting and security monitoring.
In addition, its platform has been used for Loto-Québec’s “Winning to be vaccinated” competition and self-declaration of rapid tests at home, among others.
“It is a comprehensive, flexible technology platform with services for urgent needs, not only for mobile applications of VaxiCode / VaxiCode Verif,” says Arash Saidi, Partner at Akinox.
These statements have convinced an industry specialist who believes the amount is rather reasonable given the circumstances. Another, initially skeptical, eventually refused to comment on the large number of unknown variables.
It must be said that the various mobile applications related to COVID-19 are difficult to compare from one jurisdiction to another. For example, Arash Saidi refers to a German tracing application (“comparable in terms of technology and infrastructure”) that cost $10.25 million.
For its part, Scotland paid CAN 11.4 M$ for a vaccination card that was to use… facial recognition. The government eventually decided not to proceed.
In New York, an application similar to the one in Quebec, developed by IBM, had cost $4.7 million as of August 2021. However, the contract provided for a budget of up to $27 million.
Closer to home, Ontario claims to have developed its system in-house in collaboration with the private sector, but refuses to reveal the bottom line.
Even more surprising is that the over-the-counter deal with Akinox Solution was signed nearly four months after the vaccination card arrived in Quebecers’ pockets.
The department argues with the complexity of the agreement. “The MSSS had agreed the principles with the supplier and allowed them to start work before signing to finalize the details of certain clauses. Apparently the MSSS is aware that it is not normally recommended to start work before the contract is signed,” their spokesman wrote.