BOSTON (SHNS) – After working through the 2009 H1N1 outbreak and picking up lessons along the way, Massachusetts public health officials built a state-of-the-art data system that will be put to the test in the coming months as the state rolls out a vaccine and campaign to get enough residents inoculated against COVID-19 to bring an end to this pandemic.
The system, the Massachusetts Immunization Information System, facilitates vaccine ordering and patient vaccination status tracking, and can be used to remind patients when they need to return for a crucial second dose of the two-part coronavirus protection.
“The Massachusetts Immunization Information System is going to be a cornerstone of this whole campaign,” Pejman Talebian, director of the Immunization Division for the Department of Public Health, said Thursday during a meeting of the Public Health Council.
The system, which began to be rolled out in 2011 and is now fully operational, is meant to establish “a complete, accurate, secure, real-time immunization record for residents of Massachusetts of all ages,” DPH said. Assistant DPH Commissioner Kevin Cranston, who leads the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, said the system came about as a result of the so-called swine flu pandemic a decade ago.
“We are building on the experience of the H1N1 pandemic and the learnings from that experience prompted us over the last decade to build a brand new vaccine registry,” he said. “It’s a state-of-the-art system, web-based, highly secure. It serves as an ordering system for providers, it’s an inventory system that allows us to track the current status of the administration of the vaccine, and it allows us to know where they are at any given moment.”
In 2009, an H1N1 virus “distantly related” to the virus that fueled the 1918 flu pandemic returned and killed more than 18,000 people worldwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization.
DPH said MIIS has been “enhanced” to prepare for COVID-19 vaccine administration.
Not only can DPH use MIIS to track vaccine orders and to check in on vaccine administration around the state, but doctors and others who will be giving the vaccine can use it as well.
“It will be the key tool that all health care providers will be able to use to specifically track their patients and whether their patients have received a first dose, and if they’re due for a second dose and which second dose they’re due for,” Talebian said.
Because the two COVID-19 vaccines furthest along in the approval process — Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines — require two shots weeks apart, Talebian said the MIIS system will also be used to remind patients who are due for their second dose to get it and remind them which vaccine they received.
“That’s a really critical part of this whole campaign,” he said.
When Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday announced the state’s plans to make COVID-19 vaccines available, he said Massachusetts expects to receive 60,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by Dec. 15 and is counting on 300,000 doses, including both Moderna- and Pfizer-manufactured vaccines, by the end of the month.
120,000 More Doses Coming
Cranston on Thursday morning was able to provide additional details on the second shipment of vaccines the state is anticipating.
“We’ve gotten confirmation just in the last 24 hours of about 120,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine as our initial allocation for that vaccine and that is estimated to arrive on or about Dec. 22,” he said.
As the first vaccine rolls out, the biggest challenge will be the supply chain and making sure there is enough of the vaccine manufactured, shipped and allocated to Massachusetts. But as other vaccine candidates advance and get approved, as Cranston said he expects will happen over the coming weeks and months, DPH’s challenges will change.
“Later on, the challenge is really going to be capacity of the systems to perform the vaccination itself,” Cranston said. “We will go from a dearth of vaccine to a flood of vaccine and multiple formulations with a significant coordination and administration challenge.”