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Vaccine tracking goes digital

For such an important health record, yellow immunization cards are not efficient or well-liked. Forgotten or misplaced cards can lead to multiple copies for one patient, making tracking vaccines difficult, especially for young children.

It was this patient frustration that motivated Dr. Kumanan Wilson, MD’93, to develop a vaccine-tracking app for smart devices.

“One mother said to me, ‘I can do my banking on my phone, why can’t I track my vaccines on my phone?’ and that sounded like a great idea,” he explained.

The ImmunizeCA app, free to download on iOS and Android devices, went national in March and now has more than 35,000 users. It has been available to users in Ontario since November 2012.  

The primary function of the app is to track and organize immunization records, but it also provides appointment reminders and outbreak alerts to users, as well as an FAQ section.

“There’s a lot of misinformation on the Internet about vaccines that has been causing people to be hesitant about vaccination,” said Dr. Wilson. “We’re hoping to deal with the misinformation by having accurate information that’s been vetted by public health authorities.”

Dr. Wilson is an internal medicine specialist and holds a Research Chair in Public Health Policy. He studies vaccination policy and the anti-vaccination movement.

To develop a prototype, Dr. Wilson worked with Cameron Bell, an electrical engineering student at McGill University.

“It was an interesting experience,” said Dr. Wilson. “As the first of its kind, there was no model for us to follow.”

The project soon caught the attention of public health agencies. The national app is a collaboration between the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA), Immunize Canada and The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

In order to launch nationally, the app had to be updated for every Canadian province and territory, in both official languages.

Dr. Wilson would like to see 100,000 Canadians making the switch from the dated card system to the digital alternative.

There is also an opportunity for increased information sharing between users and public health agencies. Dr. Wilson is hopeful the app will soon be able to send updated records to officials. “We’re interested in the two-way flow of information between the individual and public health,” he said.

The free app is available for download at www.immunize.ca/en/app.aspx.