TRACKVAX for tracking vaccines
Ireland’s covid-19 vaccine traceability system is based on GS1 standards.
From the general supply to the individual syringe, it is vital to monitor vaccine availability as immunization programs roll out. It is critical for public health and accounting processes to avoid the loss of doses.
Vaccination against COVID-19 is the biggest challenge to date, requiring rapid supply and emergency vaccination of a large population. Ireland rose to the challenge by developing an innovative and personalized vaccine tracking system (TrackVax) that helped ensure the efficient and secure distribution of vaccines in the country.
“One of the things we anticipated is that manually entering the batch number or expiration date of the COVID-19 vaccine could easily be mistaken,” explains Dr. Lucy Jessup, director of public health at the National Health Service. immunization of Ireland. “Whereas if a barcode is scanned and the data from that goes directly into the system, you have the perfect data right away.” Dr. Jessup leads various elements of the COVID-19 vaccination and in particular focuses on safety controls, supply and distribution of vaccines.
There is an urgent need for full traceability of doses, especially for vaccination from vials of variable number of doses that are received at vaccination centers. This is especially important for Pfizer-BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine, which has a strictly limited shelf life after thawing. TrackVax has been developed in partnership with the Global Organization GS1, whose know-how has been instrumental in the design and implementation of the traceability system in Ireland.
TrackVax enables the printing of standard barcodes on vaccine vials and pre-filled syringes, which, after being scanned by the dispensing pharmacist, allow the recording of key traceability data, including GTIN (Global Trade Unit Number), batch number, expiry date and time of withdrawal. The vial is labeled with this information and allows the vaccinator to easily complete the vaccination record. When the vial runs out, it is returned to the pharmacy, the barcode is scanned and this is added to the record, along with any discarded doses and reasons for this, thus ensuring a closed loop of information.
“Vaccines were expensive and there was a shortage at first,” says Dr. Jessup. “We had to know the location of each dose at all times and keep track of it.” Unlike using paper, TrackVax allows data to be recorded immediately. To track the loss of doses in detail, 7 different unsubscribe codes are applied, giving the specific reasons why a dose was not used, e.g. that the vial has been dropped or expired. Centralized reporting of this information allows changes to be made in training or materials for the use of the vaccine.
The role of the pharmacist in the design of the system was crucial to ensure that it was accessible and easy to manage. “The commitment of some community vaccination center (CVC) pharmacists who helped co-design the system was significant,” says Dr. Jessup. “There’s no point in developing a system that no one will use because it’s too complicated or doesn’t provide the information they need.” Half of the vaccines were administered by community vaccination centres, a total of 42 at the peak, and the rest by GPs and local pharmacies.
To avoid wastage of vaccines, it is important to correctly determine the required number of vials per day. Prior to the introduction of TrackVax, the process was labor intensive as pharmacists had to track vials through paper records. “They were doing a lot of math and trying to reconcile the paper data,” says Dr. Jessup. “It was difficult, especially at the end of the day when you had to figure out how many vials were available at the vaccination center and figure out how many more to open for people waiting to be vaccinated without going overboard.” The whole exercise was very time-consuming before the process was automated with TrackVax.”
The TrackVax system has amazed many non-public health and non-medical professionals by winning several awards in Ireland. A mobile version is currently being developed for community pharmacies and home vaccinations.
“TrackVax is as close to humans as possible, and that makes it much safer,” explains Dr. Jessup. “I don’t know how we would gather all the information so quickly and reliably from each center,