Automation of Vaccine Reports to Save Babies Lives



Having already developed an award winning vaccine reporting system for the Western Australia Department of Health, we were commissioned to develop an update to their reporting solution.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can affect people of any age. However, it remains prevalent in Australia and can be a serious and life threatening disease in babies with most hospitalisations and deaths occurring in babies less than six months of age.

To encourage the uptake of whooping cough vaccinations during pregnancy, the WA Health Department implemented a free whooping cough vaccination program. As with any vaccine, there is a chance of side effects, most of them usually minor. However, a life-threatening allergic reaction can happen after any vaccine, including whooping cough, with the estimated risk being less than one in a million vaccinations. The reaction can start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.

The Vaccine Safety Surveillance system (VSS) tracks adverse reactions in recipients of flu and child vaccinations and is the central reporting service for WA Department of Health. VSS was established to help health providers and the public report adverse events following immunisations, and to ensure appropriate clinical follow-up of individuals who have experienced a significant adverse event. With this reporting system in operation, the WA Health Department decided to expand it to include the monitoring of the newly introduced whooping cough vaccination in pregnant women.

Adding on to the existing VSS portal, an automated notification process and an integrated SMS (Short Message Service) notification system was implemented to quickly capture adverse responses from expectant mothers that had received the whooping cough immunisation.

The updated VSS system makes reporting adverse reactions simple and fast, supporting authorities to identify and remove at-risk vaccines from the health system more quickly, thereby reducing the adverse reaction reporting time from weeks to days. The technology is designed for smartphone usage, making the system simpler and easier than the previous manual system that relied on individual phone calls and self-serve questionnaires.

In 2016, 3,600 women were enrolled in the follow-up program. Results showed that one in eight women experienced a common reaction following pertussis vaccination and no serious vaccine-associated events were reported. These results have been used by the WA Department of Health to support the safety of antenatal vaccination to the public and providers.

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