A better way to track immunizations?

By the time they are 6, if they are following the recommended immunization schedule, Minnesota children have had five doses of DPT vaccine, four doses of polio vaccine, two doses of MMR vaccine, and the list goes on. The shots are given at varying ages, sometimes by different doctors, and in varying vaccine combinations. And, by the way, the complete vaccine schedule is twice as long as that.

A child’s immunization schedule is complex. Keeping track of it can be difficult for both parents and clinics, often requiring a doctor to search for and clarify a child’s shot history.

The Minnesota Department of Health wants to simplify the process and put an end to the traditional archaic paper records and the decentralized tracking system. To do this, they have created an electronic system called the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC).

The MIIC is a confidential computerized system that, when completed, will include immunization records for every child and eventually for every adult in the state. It will be accessible by only the Health Department, parents, and their children’s health care providers, schools, day cares, and insurance companies.

In order for the registry to work effectively, nearly all immunization providers must participate by entering data on a timely basis.

The Health Department reported that 98 percent of public immunization providers were submitting immunization data to the MIIC, along with 75 percent of private immunization providers. (The majority of Minnesota children get their shots from private providers). The Health Department’s goal is to have at least 95 percent of providers participating by the end of 2007.

Parents don’t need to sign up to use the MIIC: Chances are their children’s school or clinic is already participating. One day, parents will have direct access to their child’s information by using a pin number, but for now they need to request MIIC records through schools and clinics.

According to the Health Department, the registry can help parents in the following ways:

– By ensuring that children receive the immunizations they need.

– By making sure children don’t receive additional doses of vaccines because records aren’t available.

– By offering a simpler way to get a child’s shot records.

– By sending out appointment reminder cards for shots due.

– By making the information easily accessible to new providers if the family moves.

The Centers for Disease Control are also working to create a national registry, but because state-level immunization privacy laws vary, that is not currently possible.

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