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Tech & Tools

Online Tool Creates Catch-Up Immunization Schedules

Children obtain protection against certain diseases by receiving vaccinations, but they commonly miss recommended times to receive these immunizations. Once a child falls behind, healthcare professionals typically have to construct a unique, personalized catch-up schedule for each child—often while the child waits in the treatment room.

A new online tool takes the guesswork out of developing individualized catch-up immunization schedules by allowing parents and healthcare providers to easily create a schedule that ensures missed vaccines and future vaccines are administered according to approved guidelines.

"The immunization schedule is complex,” says Larry Pickering, executive secretary of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a collaborator on the project. “By using the online immunization scheduler, parents can ensure that their children stay current on all recommended vaccines, and they can also obtain useful information about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases.”

The online catch-up immunization scheduling tool, which was developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the CDC, is available at www.vacscheduler.org. Since the new tool launched in January 2012, the site has recorded nearly 63,000 visits, 22% of them repeat visitors. Nearly one-half of the visitors identified themselves as healthcare providers.

The online tool removes the challenging task of simultaneously considering complex rules, guidelines, and discretionary considerations when creating a catch-up schedule. A physician or caregiver simply inputs a child’s date of birth and previous immunization dates, and selects whether to administer the vaccines as soon as possible or when recommended. Then the program displays a personalized schedule of the recommended dates to administer all future vaccines, which can be saved to the user’s computer. Vaccines included in the scheduler are those required between birth and age 6.

The scheduler follows the guidelines developed and revised each year by the ACIP in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians. These guidelines include the feasible number, timing, and spacing of doses of each vaccine based on a child’s age, the number of doses, and the age at which each dose was administered.

In addition, each dose of each vaccine has a minimum, maximum, and recommended age for administration, and there are minimum and recommended gaps between doses. These gaps as well as future administrations of a particular vaccine may vary depending on the child’s age and the age at which previous doses were administered.

If a child requires more than one live vaccine to be administered, there are two options: administer all live vaccines on the same day or wait 28 days between live vaccine injections. There also may be discretionary considerations, such as limiting the number of simultaneous administrations a child receives or the number of visits required to complete the series for all vaccines.

Beyond advising on vaccination schedules, the tool may also encourage interactions between parents and physicians.

“By using the scheduler, parents will enhance their knowledge of vaccines and the diseases they prevent, and receive assistance in formulating questions that can be discussed with their child’s physicians and nurses, resulting in more productive interactions,” says Pickering, who is also a professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine.

— Source: Georgia Institute of Technology, Research Communications