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Child immunisation tracker app launched
[Posted: Tue 26/04/2011 www.irishhealth.com]
Health website Irishhealth.com has just launched a new Child Immunisation Tracker app for the iPhone. The tracker is the first service of its kind in Ireland and has been designed to help parents keep track of their children’s vaccination history while also sending them timely reminders of when a further vaccination is due.
In addition, a live feed of relevant child health news and alerts on disease outbreaks are also sent to parents when relevant. The tool is available online via the Irishhealth.com Child Immunisation Tracker channel or can be downloaded at no cost from the iTunes store. For parents who do not have an iPhone, a free web-based SMS and email reminder service is being made available as part of this initiative. The service is available at no cost to the public thanks to sponsorship support from Aptamil.
The tool has been developed in response to the challenge faced by parents of keeping track of the increased number of vaccinations that children are required to receive. It is launched at a time of growing concern that trends in non-compliance are increasing, with particular concerns raised about a decline in the uptake of meningitis vaccines. Recent data also highlights a relatively low uptake of the three doses of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) when compared with other vaccines – as noted in the HPSC Disease Surveillance Report in March 2011.
Vaccination has a critical role to play in prevention of illness amongst children and vaccinations are designed to minimise the potential impact of a range of potentially fatal diseases. The launch is timed to coincide with European Immunisation Week, which runs from April 23rd–30th.
Welcoming the launch of the Child Immunisation Tracker Health Minister Dr James Reilly said: “This new tool will help to simplify the process for parents and will be particularly useful when it comes to reminders. It is critical that we as a nation maintain a high level of immunisation amongst the population and also play our part in ensuring compliance across the European region. I congratulate Irishhealth.com on bringing this useful tool to the public.”
John Gibbons, Publisher, Irishhealth.com commented: "The 'Child Immunisation Tracker' shows how user-friendly technology can deliver tangible public health benefits in terms of reducing the incidence of life-threatening childhood illnesses. Irish healthcare IT spending is among the lowest in the OECD. However, this initiative proves that new technologies can deliver services to dispersed populations at a fraction of the cost of conventional communication. We would like to acknowledge the support of Aptamil in allowing us to make this public health service available free of charge".
The iPhone tool, which is also available in online format through the Irishhealth.com website, is downloadable free of charge from the iTunes store. In addition to enabling parents to track their children’s vaccination schedule the tool will also send out SMS messages to remind them when their next vaccination is due. If parents sign up for the online version, email reminders will be sent. The free service gives parents a secure permanent record of their child’s vaccinations which can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
The personalised Immunisation Tracker is simple to use and provides reliable information. Parents enter basic information - the first name of their child, the child's date of birth, their county of residence, their blood group, GP details and their e-mail address.
The tracker then provides a personalised vaccination schedule listing all of the current childhood vaccinations, when they are due and what they are for, as well as useful background information about the benefits of each immunisation and why they are important. All information is based on the most up to date vaccination guidelines for Ireland by the Royal College of Physicians.
Aileen Regan, Medical Director, Milupa Aptamil said: “We understand that parents face challenges when trying to remember and track the vaccination schedule. We felt that this simple tool would help parents and give them one less thing to worry about. We were delighted to support Irishhealth.com by helping to bring this iPhone app and online service to fruition.”
The Child Immunisation Tracker has been welcomed by leading medical professionals. Alf Nicholson, professor of paediatrics, Children’s University Hospital, Dublin said: “Vaccination against infectious diseases is one of the main reasons children are far healthier these days. Vaccinations are safe and effective and do not overload your baby’s immune system. All new vaccines go through a very rigorous process of assessment prior to their introduction. Scare stories about the MMR vaccine have been totally discredited”, said Prof Nicholson.
“The new immunisation app from Irishhealth.com will be an added tool to remind parents to make an appointment for their next GP visit. It also includes general information about immunisation”, he said.
Dr Mel Bates, chairman of the ICGP communications committee pointed out that the primary immunisation scheme in Ireland is comprehensive and there is very good uptake for the first three visits at two, four and six months. Reminders are sent by general practices and by the HSE, though there is no national notification system as such.
“The first big challenge is month 12 and then 13”, he said. “Since the new schedule in 2008, children now receive the MMR and pneumococcus vaccine at 12 months and the Hib booster and third meningococcal C vaccine at 13 months. This can be a little confusing for parents. GPs and practice nurses are doing their utmost to issue reminders to make sure that children complete the schedule.”
“I would welcome anything that can assist in reminding parents about the immunisation schedule, and particularly in drawing attention to the important 12 and 13 month visits. The new child immunisation app will be a helpful complement to the existing reminders. Parents will be able to include the phone number of their GP surgery within the app to make an appointment immediately they receive the reminder.
Linda Latham, Advanced Nurse Practitioner pointed out that practice nurses are at the forefront of the national childhood immunisation programme and welcome any means whereby vaccine uptake rates can be improved.
There have been significant changes to the programme in Ireland since 2008. Although vaccination programmes by their nature are dynamic as new vaccines evolve, the change for both parents and professionals can cause some confusion.
“The benefits and convenience of using an iPhone application means that parents have the potential to take control and organise their child’s primary vaccination schedule. This system serves to complement the role of the practice nurse and can enhance the service provided in general practice for new parents".
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