As part of a larger effort to improve vaccination rates, Alberta Canada’s health agency has contracted with U.S.-based Scientific Technologies Corporation for the implementation of a vaccine management system to reduce waste and ease the disease burden.
Alberta Health has contracted with U.S.-based Scientific Technologies Corporation (STC) to ensure the province has the right vaccines, in the right places, at opportune times. STC will implement a vaccine inventory management system modeled after the systems it currently has in place in one-fifth of U.S. states in order to improve the management and distribution of vaccines.
When outbreaks occur, medical professionals need to know how many vaccines they have available, where they are, and how to identify those who need them most.
Excessive vaccine inventory leads to waste, while underestimating vaccine needs can lead to unnecessary illnesses. Vaccine management systems help to maintain a balance between supply and demand through disease forecasting, standardized procurement, monitoring, and medical record keeping.
Without vaccination management systems, vaccine supplies are ordered and managed by hand, leading to an uneven and unmonitored supply.
Medical professionals are responsible for knowing when a vaccine is required, for locating and administering the vaccine, and finally, for recording immunizations in patients’ charts by hand.
Vaccination management systems are designed for public health nurses, physicians, and pharmacists to streamline this process by providing real-time inventory information, resilient 2D barcodes to ensure the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, and reducing the burdens and potential for errors related to manual record keeping.
Alberta Health will be the first Canadian government agency to implement a vaccine inventory management system.
Compared to other affluent countries, Canada has very low vaccination rates. At 84 percent, Canadian vaccination rates for 2013 compare to 96 percent in the United Kingdom, and 93 percent in the United States and Australia.
Among Canadian provinces, only Ontario, Manitoba, and New Brunswick mandate child vaccinations. In lieu of mandatory vaccine requirements, Alberta follows the Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines that exclude non-vaccinated students from schools during outbreaks.
When a measles outbreak developed in Alberta in 2013, some areas in the province reported immunization rates of less than 60 percent. The contract with STC is part of Alberta’s larger effort to increase its vaccination rates.
Alberta Health has launched an educational website that addresses popular misconceptions about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations. According to Dr. Kirstin Klein, of the University of Alberta, Canadian parents who refuse vaccinations do so for a variety of reasons, including accessibility issues, religious objectives, and inconsistent communication from health professionals.
Combined with improved supply monitoring, reduced waste, and the ease of recording that will come from the implementation of STC’s vaccination management system, Alberta Health’s communication effort could result in significantly higher vaccination rates across the province.
Vaccines reduce the incidence and economic burden of disease on health systems. Some childhood vaccines save $29 in direct medical expenses for every dollar spent.
STC’s goal is to ensure the health of those living in the United States and abroad through partnerships that capitalize on its expertise and the applied use of information technology. STC was one of the first to develop a standardized, automated immunization registry.
In addition to helping government and health agencies to control their vaccine supplies, STC also gathers data to augment clinical practice, targeting the reduction and impact of vaccine-preventable disease on children.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1.5 million children under the age of 5 die from vaccine-preventable illnesses each year.
Global Vaccine-Preventable Deaths by Disease
(Estimated for 2008)
Source: World Health Organization
While not every government agency around the world is in the position to contract with companies like STC for vaccine management, increased focus on the complexities of vaccine inventory management and the development of global procedures and guidelines should reduce costs and improve outcomes.
Jenn Lonzer has a B.A. in English from Cleveland State University and an M.A. in Health Communication from Johns Hopkins University. Passionate about access to care and social justice issues, Jenn writes on global digital health developments, research, and trends. Follow Jenn on Twitter @jnnprater3.