The Power of Consumer Activism and the Value of Public Health Immunization Registries in a Pandemic: Preparedness for Emerging Diseases and Today’s Outbreaks

Michael Popovich, Todd Watkins, Ousswa Kudia


Public Health immunization registries and the immunization ecosystem have evolved over the past two decades to become significant population health data assets.  Clinical providers and pharmacists are reporting to public health registries in 49 states and all territories the immunizations given to their patients, creating consolidated immunization event patient records. 

Most of these immunization events are reported through the provider’s Electronic Health Record system (EHR), Pharmacy Management System (PMS), online, or through data uploads. Meaningful Use and health data standards (HL7) became the drivers that accelerated reporting to immunization registries and significantly improved the quality of the data. The infrastructure supporting the Immunization Ecosystem (IE) has enabled real-time compliance reporting and, more importantly, real-time patient queries. The provider community now has online access to a patient’s immunization history in over three quarters of the states, and growing. This access includes a forecast of the patient’s immunization gaps provided by public health decision support tools based upon the most recent ACIP recommendations.  This is creating an opportunity for the provider and the patient to work together to reduce their risk of suffering a vaccine-preventable disease. This IE and the data in an Immunization Information System (IIS) are especially useful as pharmacies expand their immunization practices and create opportunities to reduce the adolescent and adult immunization gaps.

In a few states, this provider-public health ecosystem has begun to extend to individuals by allowing them to access the IIS online. This provides them with the electronic version of their immunization "yellow cards," recommendations for immunizations due, and the ability to print official certificates. This emerging consumer engagement creates opportunities to empower individuals to be more proactive in their family’s health care.

This paper builds upon early experiments to empower individuals in this ecosystem by leveraging the value of these public health data assets and trusted communications, illustrating the possibilities for engaging consumers to support reducing the impact of emerging diseases, outbreaks and the next pandemic. This paper will suggest the value of the IE and the role individuals can play within their own social networks to advance public health’s efforts to manage disease events. In turn, this social mission would encourage consumers to be more proactive in managing their own healthcare.

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Online Journal of Public Health Informatics * ISSN 1947-2579 *