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More than a year in, coronavirus-weary Americans are ready for a shot in the arm—figuratively and literally.

As of this month, 42 million first and second doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the U.S. The biggest vaccination push in modern history, healthcare professionals and local governments have creatively approached high-volume dosing. Municipalities are making appointments; arenas are now drive-thru vaccination sites, and health IT is battling bottlenecks (e.g., server crashes) arising from intense demand.

And this is just the buildup to a first dose. After the recipient arrives, healthcare providers have the mission-critical duty of capturing several data points during vaccine administration.

Per the CDC, immunizers must “…document vaccine administration in their medical record systems within 24 hours of administration and use their best efforts to report administration data to the relevant system, e.g., immunization information system (IIS) for the jurisdiction as soon as practicable and no later than 72 hours after administration.”

As part of vaccine recordkeeping, immunizers must also include:

  • Manufacturer and lot number
  • Dosing location and route
  • Name and title of immunizer
  • Second-vaccine date

Adding Java to Tools of the Trade

vaccine technology

Recording data within bustling sites, like high-volume chain store pharmacies, is challenging. Moreover, manual data capture is vulnerable to human error (i.e., transposed digits or misplaced logs).

Although the task is formidable, next-gen patient-care devices are supporting vaccination including barcode readers.

Barcode readers have evolved from commodities into tech-rich devices complete with Bluetooth® 5.0 and JavaScript programming capabilities. Mainstays of the IT and consumer realms, these technologies are also integral to patient-care devices to ensure accurate data capture and secure transmission.

Data flow from the factory to the feds

Vaccine manufacturing and data

Pharmaceutical giants are scaling up at unprecedented levels to produce, test, and ship vaccines

directly to dosage sites. And just like every other aspect of this pandemic, shipping is complicated.

The vaccines must remain at either minus 70 or minus 20 degrees Celsius (per manufacturer). GPS-enabled thermal sensors are included in shipments to track lots and temps during transit. A vaccine lot receives barcodes during production that incorporate several data points, including a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS). Affixed to virtually all vaccine types, the VIS identifies the manufacturer and edition date.

VIS also facilitates data transmission to the immunizer’s electronic medical record (EMR) system or IIS database. From there, vaccine data flows to:

  1. An immunization gateway
  2. An electronic health records system.
  3. The vaccine administration management system.

Finally, it’s formatted per the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Reporting Specification for federal analysis.

During production, lots undergo 60+ quality checks to ensure every vial is safe and effective. Along the way, vials are scanned multiple times; captured data moves to higher-level production and logistics systems. Each scan enables manufacturers to track lots en route to dosage sites. And while vaccines are in transit, dosage site health IT administrators are configuring medical code sets for proper documentation, data flow, and reporting.

Raising the bar(code) on safety

Via barcode, captured vaccine data helps protect recipients thousands of miles away from the production facility.

First and foremost, vaccine and thermal sensor data ensure safety–if the shipping container is compromised, that lot can be “blacklisted.” IT departments at dosage sites can utilize JavaScript programming onboard advanced barcode readers to perform a subroutine for “catching” spoiled vaccines upon arrival. Additional subroutines enable barcode readers to validate lot numbers and expiration dates.

However, there’s more data can do when vials are scanned with a programmed device. If a vaccine caused a reaction in one recipient, the data could identify others who received doses from the same lot. Furthermore, a patient’s vaccine data can be pulled easily by another local facility in the likely event that the patient visits a different site for their second dose.

Finally, barcode scanners can be set to filter actual vaccines. While it’s easy to assume that the proper coronavirus vaccine will be administered every time, errors occur. In late 2020, 42 people were accidentally inoculated with a monoclonal antibody COVID-19 treatment, instead of the vaccine. IT departments can ensure their site’s barcode reader has the filter to prevent similar accidents.

Simplicity is the best RX

covid-19 vaccine technology

Compounding the challenges immunizers face is the frenetic nature of chain store and drive-thru vaccination sites. Familiar tools such as smartphones with a scanning SDK or barcode scanners help because of their point-and-shoot simplicity.

For instance, an IT programmer can utilize JavaScript programming for one-and-done barcode reader calibration—immunizers scan one properly formatted barcode upon start up. Additional JavaScript programming enables a barcode scanner to recognize specific data strings, improving accuracy. If an immunizer scans the wrong barcode (for instance, a 12-digit code versus a nine-digit field), a properly programmed barcode scanner will reject the data and alert the immunizer.

Damage doesn’t deter data

healthcare IT vaccine data

In a perfect world, labels and barcodes are pristine. In the real world, labels on a vial can get scratched, moving from a shipping container to an ultra-low freezer or procedure cart. And damaged barcodes can make it virtually impossible to capture data accurately or quickly.

However, scan engines built into barcode readers and thoroughly developed decoding and scanning smartphone apps meet these challenges with aggressive label capture on flat or curved surfaces—even glass—at first pass. That last medium is crucial because some municipalities may issue appointment info, including a barcode with patient information, via email or text—a shiny or cracked screen may be scanned.

Pushing the pandemic back

pandemic technologies

It’s clear how crucial vaccine data capture and analysis are in America’s push to administer 1.5 million vaccines daily. And health IT solutions supported by the right hardware will be essential to this goal. When the dust settles, new best practices will be applied, and system architectures will be redesigned for greater scalability to arm healthcare for future challenges.

Partner Spotlight: Code Corporation

For 20+ years, Utah-based Code has been an industry pioneer and leader in data capture. In continually perfecting its exclusive decoding algorithms, Code’s image-based scanning and decoding technologies have earned 100+ patents. Our hardware and software solutions are industry-trusted for providing unmatched data transmission and security. More at www.codecorp.com.

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