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Boston launches flu shot tracking
09-17-2009, 05:47 PM, (This post was last modified: 09-17-2009, 05:48 PM by DJOldskool.)
Boston launches flu shot tracking
Boston launches flu shot tracking
City to pinpoint areas of low rates of vaccination

By Stephen Smith
Globe Staff / November 21, 2008

Using technology originally developed for mass disasters, Boston disease trackers are embarking on a novel experiment - one of the first in the country - aimed at eventually creating a citywide registry of everyone who has had a flu vaccination.

The resulting vaccination map would allow swift intervention in neighborhoods left vulnerable to the fast-moving respiratory illness.

The trial starts this afternoon, when several hundred people are expected to queue up for immunizations at the headquarters of the Boston Public Health Commission. Each of them will get a bracelet printed with a unique identifier code. Information about the vaccine's recipients, and the shot, will be entered into handheld devices similar to those used by delivery truck drivers.

Infectious disease specialists in Boston and elsewhere predicted that the registry approach could prove even more useful if something more sinister strikes: a bioterrorism attack or the long-feared arrival of a global flu epidemic. In such crises, the registry could be used to track who received a special vaccine or antidote to a deadly germ.

"Anything you can do to better pinpoint who's vaccinated and who's not, that's absolutely vital," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota. "I wish more cities were doing this kind of thing."

Boston is believed to be the first city to embrace this particular approach to tracking vaccinations against the seasonal flu, estimated to kill 36,000 people each year in the United States, principally the elderly.

But when Boston bought the monitoring system from a Milwaukee company in 2006, emergency authorities had a far different use in mind: tracking people injured in big fires, plane crashes, or other disasters.

"When there's a large catastrophic event, people end up in a variety of healthcare facilities," said Dr. Anita Barry, Boston's director of communicable disease control. "Of course, their family members and loved ones are trying to find out where they are and how they're doing."

To see how well the system would work, emergency crews tested it at the Boston Marathon and the Fourth of July extravaganza on the Esplanade. The trial proved successful.

"If we can make it work in the Boston Marathon medical tent, then you have to think about making it so that it can work in other environments as well - whether it's a community clinic or a doctor's office or a flu shot clinic," said Rich Serino, chief of Boston Emergency Medical Services. Thus, the idea to use the registry as a flu vaccine tracker was born.

Every autumn in medical offices across the country, flu vaccine floods in. The perishable medical product must be delivered to millions in a matter of months.

Keeping track of that cache of vaccine - and which patients are getting it - is a daunting proposition.

In some medical offices, the information is entered into electronic medical records. At Boston's health department, nurses fill out paper forms.

But there's never been any way to systematically monitor whether, for example, Dorchester has lower vaccination rates than the North End.

"When you're working in one clinic, you don't have a good sense of that," said Dr. Alfred DeMaria, top disease doctor at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. "But if you're tracking multiple clinics in real time, you can see where the uptake is better and where it's less, and then focus on outreach."

Today's experiment, which does not require any additional direct spending, is a first step toward that.

When people arrive for their shots, they will get an ID bracelet with a barcode. Next, basic information - name, age, gender, address - will be entered into the patient tracking database. There will be electronic records, too, of who gave the vaccine and whether it was injected into the right arm or the left, and time-stamped for that day.

The resulting trove of data could be used to figure out why some patients had to wait longer than others to be vaccinated. "When all is said and done," said Jun Davantes, director of product management at EMSystems, the company that makes the technology, "Boston will be able to identify where there are certain bottlenecks in the process and hopefully improve it the next time around."

Ultimately, city health authorities said, they envision creating a network across the city that would allow public and private providers of flu shots to add data to a registry.

But acknowledging patients' privacy concerns, officials promised that if a citywide system were implemented, only a limited amount of information would be gathered - all sitting behind an encrypted firewall.

"I have had people say, 'Oh, that's so big brother,' " said Laura Williams, EMS deputy chief of staff. "But in truth, the unique identifier is unique to the incident. It's not like you will go to the hospital, and they'll say, 'You're the one who got the flu vaccine at 10 o'clock yesterday at the Boston Public Health Commission.' "

Stephen Smith can be reached at

Boston Globe
09-17-2009, 07:17 PM,
Boston launches flu shot tracking
I mentioned this 2008 article here:

It was for the regular flu but looks like it could have been the trial run for possible use with this outbreak of Swine Flu. There is some info going around that people will have to wear one of these with the swine flu shot, but I havent seen any hard proof of that yet.
"Listen to everyone, read everything, believe nothing unless you can prove it in your own research"
~William Cooper

09-17-2009, 07:32 PM,
Boston launches flu shot tracking
Have to agree Silva. I got an update from a group that is usually on top of things, this was one of the articles and I had just read your post on dates on running old material for new. I still haven't found anything current.

While I will not give the name of the member on the Lymphoma Board, a question was posed on the vaccine:

"Having had to take the Swine Flu vaccine (under direct military order), I was sick for three weeks and many service members died due to the fact that it was a live vaccine."

If they are that intent on giving and keeping up with these shots, I'm sure something like what was mentioned before may be used to keep track of people, but still have seen no proof.

09-17-2009, 11:34 PM,
Boston launches flu shot tracking
yeah, sorry. Didnt check the date
09-18-2009, 01:44 AM,
Boston launches flu shot tracking
Quote:yeah, sorry. Didnt check the date

Good effort though. You'll get the hang of it again :nuts::yikes:
09-18-2009, 04:01 AM,
Boston launches flu shot tracking
Don't feel bad, when I first read it i didn't notice either. Silva noticed it then I went back and seen it.
09-18-2009, 04:04 PM,
Boston launches flu shot tracking
Interesting time to bring this up again though. Vaccines are due any time now and I think one state has already passed a law making it madatory.

Draws such a parallel to the 1976 flu outbreak, the vaccine caused a lot of problems and was not really required for any but those with the weakest immune systems. There is an old 60 minutes peice on it floating about. Except this time you cannot sue the grug company if it gives your child brain damage.

09-19-2009, 04:47 AM,
Boston launches flu shot tracking
The city close to us Dandridge, TN, is suppose to have a kid that died from the Swine Flu this week, yet I can't get that confirmed. Our youngest daughter has the symptoms of it, then again, they are 1 symptom fits all. This has got this little town muttering the word vaccine and signs posted everywhere advertising flu shots. It looks as though they are seeing if the sheep will line up for slaughter, I'd guess that old plan is plan B just in case.

I would not put much past them. Funny the age group it effects. That is the young warriors. Kill that and it should be a walk in the park.

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