State-run data system will track mass vaccinated patients and remind them when to receive their second dose

After the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, Massachusetts public health officials implemented a state-of-the-art data system for its vaccination programs. This system will soon be put to the test as the state rolls out its COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

The Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS) makes it easy to order vaccines and also tracks the status of patients receiving the vaccine. It is designed to provide patients with helpful reminders to know when to receive the critical final dose of the vaccine. The two vaccines – one from Moderna, the other from Pfizer – which are expected to be distributed to some Massachusetts residents in the coming months require two doses – a few weeks apart – to provide effective protection against the coronavirus.

“The Massachusetts Immunization Information System is going to be the cornerstone of this entire campaign,” Pejman Talebian, director of the Department of Public Health’s immunization division, said Thursday at a meeting of the Board of Directors. public health.

The MIIS data system, which was first deployed in 2011, is now fully operational, DPH officials said. It aims to establish “a complete, accurate, secure and real-time immunization record for Massachusetts residents of all ages,” they added.

DPH Deputy Commissioner Kevin Cranston, who heads the Bureau of Infectious Diseases and Laboratory Sciences, said the system was born out of the so-called swine flu pandemic ten years ago.

“We are building on the experience of the H1N1 pandemic and the lessons learned from that experience have inspired us over the past decade to create a whole new vaccine registry,” he said. “It’s a state-of-the-art, web-based, highly secure system. It serves as an ordering system for the suppliers, it’s an inventory system that allows us to track the current status of vaccine delivery, and it lets us know where they are at all times. “

In 2009, an H1N1 virus “closely linked” to the virus that fueled the infamous 1918 influenza pandemic returned. The so-called swine flu has killed more than 18,000 people worldwide, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

DPH said MIIS was “upgraded” to prepare for the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.

DPH can not only use MIIS to track vaccine orders and verify vaccine delivery in the state, but doctors and others who will administer the vaccine can use it as well.

“This will be the key tool that all healthcare providers can use to specifically track their patients and find out if their patients have received a first dose, and if they should receive a second dose, and what second dose they should receive. . due for, “Talebian said, calling the reminder system” a vital part of this whole campaign. “

When Governor Charlie Baker announced the state’s plans to make COVID-19 vaccines available on Wednesday, he said Massachusetts expects to receive 60,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by December 15 and is counting on 300 000 additional doses of Moderna and Pfizer. vaccines before the end of the month.

Other doses to come and the challenges ahead

On Thursday morning, Cranston was able to provide more details on the state’s second vaccine shipment.

“We have had confirmation in the past 24 hours of approximately 120,000 doses of Moderna vaccine as an initial allocation for this vaccine and which is expected to arrive on or around December 22,” he said.

As the first vaccine rolls out, the biggest challenge will be the supply chain and ensuring that there is enough vaccine manufactured, shipped and allocated to Massachusetts. But as more vaccine candidates move forward and are approved – as Cranston has said, he expects in the weeks and months to come – DPH’s challenges will change.

“The challenge down the road will really be the ability of the systems to do the vaccination itself,” Cranston said. “We will move from a shortage of vaccines to a flood of vaccines and multiple formulations with a significant coordination and administration challenge.”

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