Technology firm Oracle announced that it will be in charge of the American COVID-19 vaccination database. In a Dec. 15 press release, the company said it will serve as the central data storage hub for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oracle’s “national clearing house” will receive data from all U.S. jurisdictions that vaccinate their residents.
The Oracle National Electronic Health Records (EHR) Cloud stems from the initial days of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison reached out to the White House in March 2020. He asked President Donald Trump if there was a database for real-time data about COVID-19 treatment efficacies and outcomes. Ellison then offered to create one for the Trump administration for free.
The technology company head then brought together a team of Oracle engineers “to build a database and website registering coronavirus cases.” The engineers were to work with government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration for this purpose.
Oracle’s database first gained attention in July 2020, when National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci launched the COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network (COVPN). COVPN was the outcome of four earlier networks looking at HIV/AIDS. Despite the merger, the four networks would still continue their original objectives.
A NIAID press release stated that COVPN “is expected to operate more than 100 clinical trial sites across the U.S. and internationally.” The same release acknowledged Oracle’s contribution, as the COVPN site “features a customized data collection platform which Oracle … built and donated, to securely identify potential trial participants.”
Operation Warp Speed Director Dr. Moncef Slaoui has made references to the Oracle EHR Cloud multiple times. In September, he told Science magazine: “We’re working super hard on a very active pharmacovigilance system to make sure that when the vaccines are introduced, [we can] absolutely continue to assess their safety.”
An October 2020 piece on Slaoui by the Wall Street Journal formally mentioned Oracle’s involvement in the database. It mentioned that Operation Warp Speed selected both Google and Oracle “to collect and track vaccine data.” (Related: Information released about Google’s mishandling of public health data is horrifying.)
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been pushing for a government database even before the pandemic
Ellison’s government dealings date back to the early days of Oracle. In 2014, he revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency was his company’s first customer for a “relational database.” He eventually adopted the Oracle name from an earlier project by the agency. Ellison’s firm eventually gained the top spot in the database management sector in the early 2000s, fighting off competitors IBM and Microsoft.
Ellison first floated the idea of a central government database two days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He first met with then National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden Sept. 13 to pitch a proposed data surveillance system. Ellison then visited former Attorney General John Ashcroft to discuss an idea for a national identification card.
The Oracle CEO defended the need for central government databases in two opinion pieces. In an October 2001 WSJ op-ed, Ellison reminded readers that the government already maintained thousands of databases to keep track of people – aside from the ones used for government ID cards.
He wrote in the op-ed: “The single thing we could do to make life tougher for terrorists would be to ensure that all information in myriad government databases was integrated into a single national file. A national database combined with biometrics, thumb [and] hand prints, iris scans or other new technologies could detect false identities. We don’t need to trade our liberties for our lives.” (Related: Coronavirus testing is really about harvesting your DNA for a government database.)
Ellison doubled down on the need for a central database in a January 2002 New York Times op-ed. He mentioned that this was “technically simple” and could be achieved in a few months. “All we have to do is copy information for the hundreds of separate law enforcement databases into a single database.”