Expanding immunization registry assists with H1N1 response

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Office of Public Health (DHH OPH) modified its web-based immunization registry specifically for a pandemic influenza response. Prior to the 2009 H1N1 response effort, the Louisiana Immunization Network for Kids Statewide (LINKS) system was used solely for provider identification, recruitment and immunization registration. It is estimated that in 2005, this system saved more than $5 million during the Hurricane Katrina response.

In 2009, LINKS was modified and enhanced to assist with H1N1 response, particularly with vaccine allocation and tracking. It now has the capability for providers to sign up and receive the initial system training online. Previously registered healthcare providers were required to re-register in LINKS as an H1N1 provider. In addition, new providers were recruited via the state's Health Alert Network (HAN), e-mail listservs, and targeted outreach at provider meetings statewide. Providers could receive H1N1 vaccine only through the LINKS system. This process greatly increased the number of registered providers. Prior to this response, LINKS maintained approximately 695 registered providers. As of February 2010, the system had more than 2,000 providers enrolled. These providers gave out just over half of the H1N1 vaccine administered in the state.

The LINKS system provided Louisiana DHH OPH with critical information to appropriately allocate vaccine, which was initially available in limited amounts. Throughout the pandemic influenza response, this web-based system provided information on vaccine use, providing a useful tool for inventory management.

The H1N1 LINKS registration process required providers to identify the ACIP targeted population(s) they typically serve and to project the number of vaccines they would likely administer. Gathering this population-specific information was not only useful during the response effort, but has also been helpful in answering subsequent requests for detailed reports and is expected to be useful in After Action Review and Improvement Planning processes.

The LINKS system has also been used as a communications tool. Registered vaccine providers must sign on to the homepage to enter vaccination information. When they log on, they see updates and current events about the campaign highlighted. It assists by documenting demographics and vaccine specifics when needed for adverse event follow-up. The system also has the ability to do a reminder recall for children who need a second dose of vaccine. These reminder recall efforts were conducted in both January and February of 2010.

Finally, additional improvements to LINKS allow an overview of vaccine distribution and clinic information, called the LINKS Dashboard, to be monitored at both the Louisiana DHH OPH real and virtual Emergency Operations Centers. The LINKS system modifications to register, train, inform, and assist in documentation of the H1N1 event have proved invaluable for the allocation and distribution of vaccine to providers in the State of Louisiana.

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