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Hawaii Immunization Registry is now reactivated

After over a year of ongoing repairs, the Hawaii Department of Health reactivated the Hawaii Immunization Registry, which is a statewide information system that stores and tracks patient immunization records for 25 diseases, including vaccinations for polio, tetanus, measles, mumps, and now COVID-19.

Officials say that the “refurbished” immunization registry will provide more accurate vaccination data, improve patient care and boost community outreach efforts. 

“Because the immunization registry documents an individual’s immunization history, health care providers can access their patient’s individual history — providers can see where a person was vaccinated, when, what product they were given and what dose they received,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble during a media briefing on Monday morning. “It helps avoid redundant vaccine administration.” 

About 95 percent of COVID-19 vaccination records have now been transferred from Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) to the HIR, which means vaccination data found on the Hawaii COVID-19 Data Dashboard is now pulled from the immunization registry.

The registry does not affect COVID-19 case counts or testing data. 

Kemble said via Zoom that the data in the Hawaii Immunization Registry is more accurate because it is more detailed and can better catch systematic errors that VAMS often missed.

“Moving from VAMS to the Hawaii Immunization Registry not only improves patient care, it also gives us more accurate vaccination data,” said Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char in a news release. “We are committed to providing the most accurate data possible.” 

During the process of transferring records to the HIR, duplicate COVID-19 vaccinations recorded in VAMS were identified and removed.

Booster doses recorded by vaccination providers in VAMS as initial doses have also been recategorized as third doses. As a result, the number of initial vaccinations has decreased, but the number of third doses has increased by 67,000 doses, she said. 

The HIR also helps the state DOH to identify visitors who were not vaccinated in the state and remove them from the resident vaccination count, as well as resolve the “longstanding discrepancies” between Hawaii’s vaccination data and the data that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been recording, she said. 

While this slightly lowers Hawaii’s percentage of completed vaccinations from 72.5 percent to 71.1 percent, the revised data set provides a more accurate picture of the state’s vaccination efforts, Kemble said. 

Other states nationwide are undergoing similar improvements, she added. 

“We are making these changes now because DOH is committed to making systematic improvements to modernize systems and improve our health care infrastructure,” she said. 

Back in 2019, the HIR system needed to be rebuilt and updated with new software and servers in order to be “fully functional,” Kemble said, but the pandemic consequently hit as the DOH shutdown the system and started repairs. 

In the meantime, a record of most COVID-19 vaccinations administered in Hawaii were entered and stored in VAMS.

Kemble said it took some time to get the registry up and running again because the process involves working with each health care provider that contributes patient data to the system, making sure that “they are ready and able to transmit their data accurately and correctly.”

The vast majority of providers have now been importing data into the immunization registry. Those who still have not made the switch to the new system are still able to input data into VAMS as DOH transfers doses into the registry from VAMS. 

“That being said, it’s a continuing improvement process so we’re continuing to look at how we can improve upon the validation processes and making sure those numbers are as accurate as we can get them,” Kemble said. “The biggest benefit as intended allows the health department to work in partnership with health care providers to improve health care for all.”

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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