Health report

Keeping track of the Covid-19 vaccine

GS1 standards are helping to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines get efficiently and safely to patients at Central Vaccination Clinics, writes Siobhain Duggan, Director of Innovation and Healthcare, GS1 Ireland.

Almost immediately after the world learned that Covid-19 vaccines existed, a question arose: what is the best way to ensure their efficient and safe distribution? This is the sort of challenge where GS1 standards can, and do, play a critical role. GS1 barcodes can be used globally to identify Covid-19 vaccines uniquely and securely as they move from manufacturing sites through complex distribution networks to points of administration. During the last year, the team at GS1 Ireland worked closely with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to help ensure the safety of Covid-19 vaccines.

It was important for the National Immunisation Office (NIO) that no dose was wasted and that batches of vaccine could be tracked to the point of vaccination. Following an intensive design phase with the HSE project team, two software applications were developed: ScanVax and TrackVax. ScanVax was installed on over 1,000 PCs across the country to allow for the receipt of vaccines. By scanning the barcode on each of the vaccine boxes, vaccine information is then uploaded to the national vaccine administration system. This means that vaccinators can select the correct batch when administering the vaccine. TrackVax has been installed in all CVCs across the country. This allows the CVC teams to identify, label, track, and report on the vaccines in their centres, allowing a much easier vaccine reconciliation process locally and nationally. Both solutions are provided by GS1 Ireland.

“The feedback on TrackVax from the Senior Management Teams and the High Level Taskforce has been really positive in terms of enabling visibility of vaccine usage and it has been recognised that TrackVax has made a significant contribution to the efficient rollout of the Covid-19 vaccinations across Ireland,” says Lucy Jessop, Director of Public Health, HSE National Immunisation Office.

TrackVax is now running in nearly all 43 Centralised Vaccination Clinics. A barcode scan of each vaccine records the critical data, including its batch and the exact time a vial is to be discarded. Prior to the introduction of TrackVax, the discard time was handwritten on the vials, a time-consuming process that also posed a medication safety risk.

“Traceability is a key part of managing the vaccine process. The use of barcodes has been very beneficial, and it is evident that while it has saved time and resources, more importantly it is giving time back to clinicians while providing accurate information for decisions. Patient safety is key and TrackVax has been a real enabler in this case,” says John Swords, National Director of Procurement, HSE.

The excellent data quality from TrackVax provides the NIO with oversight of vaccine usage, logs accurate stock level data, and keeps waste to a minimum. TrackVax has been operational since 3 March 2021. The software has enabled the tracking and management of nearly four million vaccine doses, as of December 2021, or nearly 50 per cent of Ireland’s vaccination programme. TrackVax has been widely accepted across CVCs and has delivered value to the HSE through medicine safety, vaccine tracking, operational efficiency, and programme integrity. The next step is to provide ongoing traceability support for the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine in Ireland and, in time, for other vaccines.

GS1 licences the most widely used system of supply chain standards, serving more than two million public and private sector organisations worldwide.

T: 01 208 0660

Siobhain Duggan, Director of Innovation and Healthcare, GS1 Ireland

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