With the Covid-19 vaccine being introduced soon in the US, officials are likely to face two challenges; the first is gathering people to get their shots, and the second is making sure they come back to get their second shot of the same vaccine. The two-dose vaccines will make the logistical challenges of a vaccination more difficult to meet.
The FDA is expected to authorize the vaccines later this month after reviewing the data, after which states will start receiving shipments of Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines on December 15th, and Moderna vaccine on December 22nd. The states will then distribute these vaccines. The multidose vaccines other than the front-running vaccines are still in their development phase.
According to the executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, Claire Hannan, there are a few ways that doctors and patients can keep the dosages straight. One solution is to give a card to each individual that gets a Covid vaccine that mentions the vaccine and the time for the next dose. However, this is just a backup plan as cards won’t even be necessary in the first place, since doctors and patients will be relying on electronic records and digital registry systems to keep track of the necessary information.
At the same time, relying completely on digital systems only isn’t sufficient sometimes. Hannan, however, believes that the immunization data collection systems of the country at state level are prepared to manage the difficulties that can potentially arise from an unprecedented mass vaccination campaign that is about to start. “We are not at a point where all of our state systems are connected, but we’re also not at a point where we’re using paper,” says Hannan.
Big health systems with robust electronic health record management are likely to deal with the expected challenges in a more efficient way as compared to smaller clinics, though.
Some healthcare institutes may use specialized vaccination clinic software in the early stages of the vaccination process, while others may use their patient electronic health records. Either way, the systems will be required to report the vaccine data back to the state and each state will keep track of all the vaccines that every person vaccinated in that state has received, via the state’s own Immunization Information System (IIS). The state-level IIS’s will also help notify doctors and patients when people are due for a second dose of a vaccine.
Apart from tracking doses for each patient, digital registries of hospitals and clinics will also provide the states and the federal government statistics regarding how many people have been vaccinated and if any groups or regions are lagging behind on vaccine coverage.
Moreover, management of vaccine dosage information will vary state by state, and jurisdiction by jurisdiction as some would be more prepared than others, and the amount of experience using these systems to track vaccinations will vary from place to place too. Similarly, some areas may have vaccine registries that are regularly used for children, but not used as frequently for adults.
Compared to 2009 when the country struggled with the distribution and tracking of the H1N1 flu vaccine, the systems dedicated to vaccination tracking are much more advanced today. Electronic health records were rare back then, and only selective states used their IIS programs. However, making sure that the systems work like they’re supposed to work is still a resource-intensive challenge, according to Hannan.