Hurricane Katrina brought devastation to the gulf coast states and the loss of not only homes and possessions but also personal records including records of immunizations for the children of the areas affected. We've gathered two important documents and a map for you to review.
"We Have Proof that we are Real People" - Immunization Registries Benefit Victims of Hurricane Katrina
Reported by: Laura Zimmerman, Ron Van Duyne and Gary Urquhart; CDC\NIP\ISD\IRSB
Based upon data received on: 09/15/2005
In the midst of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, Immunization Information Systems or Immunization Registries have demonstrated their value thousands of times over. In Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, where many evacuees have lost not only homes and possessions, but personal records, the States' immunization information systems have been an invaluable tool in the relief effort – part of which is to deliver needed vaccinations to children and adults. In Louisiana alone, CDC's Immunization Registry Support Branch estimates that over 8,300 queries have been made to the Louisiana Immunization Network for Kids Statewide (LINKS) regarding vaccination histories for evacuees. LINKS remains functional, because a backup system, located in Baton Rouge, has been operational since Katrina struck.
One interaction tells a moving story and illustrates that the tremendous work to develop and maintain registries can pay-off in a single touching encounter. Sherri Poole, an Alabama Department of Public Health employee, spent the day in a shelter. When she asked one evacuee with seven children whether she had any immunization records, the mother said she had nothing. Using the LINKS system, Sherri found records on 6 of the 7 children. The mother was elated, and exclaimed, “We have proof that we are real people!"
Anecdotal information suggests that thousands of young evacuees throughout the United States have benefited from LINKS by gaining access to their immunization records electronically. Although special provisions are being made to accept students without proof of immunization into their new schools, having an immunization record provides extra assurance that no delays will occur, and no immunizations will be repeated unnecessarily. It is estimated that 83% of the immunization history queries made to LINKS are from Texas, particularly from the Houston area. The Georgia Department of Health solicited 5% of the queries from LINKS, and 31 other states and Washington DC have also made queries.
There are several means for accessing immunization history data from LINKS, including using Health Level 7 (HL7) messaging or just "view only" access. HL7 messaging is a means for formatting, transmitting and receiving data in a healthcare environment and allows not only access to information but also the ability to input information. For example, if a provider administers a vaccination to an evacuee, they may input this information into LINKS directly from their location and the immunization record stays up-to-date. Currently, 6 states and the city of Houston have HL7 direct access to LINKS. "View-only" allows a provider to access LINKS and view the immunization history from their location. Currently, 29 states, Washington DC, and 9 cities have "view-only" access to LINKS. Furthermore, 4 more states, are pending for LINKS access capabilities and should be approved and trained for this in the next few days.
Alabama's statewide immunization information system contains the records of approximately 1.9 million people of all ages. This includes 14.8 million individual immunization records. Data reported by Alabama as of December 31, 2004 suggest that 99% of the children ages 0 - 6 (332,665 of 336,625 children ages 0 - 6) have at least two immunizations recorded in the system. All immunizations billed through Medicaid and Medicare are included in the system.
Louisiana's immunization information system contains the records of approximately 1.4 million people of all ages. Fourteen million individual immunizations records are stored in the system. Data reported by Louisiana as of December 31, 2004 suggest that 79% of children ages 0 - 6 (289,438 of 365,874 children ages 0 - 6) have at least two immunizations recorded in the system.
Mississippi's immunization registry system contains the records of approximately 1.5 million people of all ages. Data reported by Mississippi as of December 31, 2004 suggest that 89% of the children ages 0 - 6 (210,674 of 235,503 children ages 0 - 6) have at least two immunizations recorded in the system.