Immunization has certainly been top-of-mind since COVID-19 and its variants came in and took over the conversation and so many lives — which brings up H.R. 550. This bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take actions to improve data sharing and other aspects of immunization information systems (IIS).
H.R. 550 was first introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2021 and then passed the House in November 2021. It is currently pending before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
What does it mean? Well, it would make $400 million of grants available to state, local, tribal and territorial public health departments so they can update immunization records and more accurately track, report, analyze and exchange immunization-related data. These funds could help health departments in several critical areas:
- Procuring updated software, hardware and cloud storage
- Improving data accuracy, collection and sharing
- Adopting national interoperability and security standards
- Enhancing immunization registry capabilities to include vaccine supply chain management, scheduling, clinical decision support and outbreak response
- Providing technical assistance to states and providers
If passed, the bill will require the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to lead activities to expand, enhance and improve immunization information systems that are administered by health departments or other agencies and used by healthcare providers. The sharing of this information can yield numerous benefits — such as supporting the standardization of IIS to accelerate interoperability with health information technology (IT) and maintaining security standards to protect individually identifiable health information.
Protecting privacy, first and foremost
It’s important to note that this is not a new Federal vaccine database; these are confidential, population-based databases that maintain a record of vaccine administrations. The bill ensures that information in state-run systems is kept private, written and designed to improve data security and privacy protection.
Within 90 days of the bill’s enactment, the Secretary must provide an implementation plan to Congress — one created in partnership with states and other governmental entities, health IT experts, providers and others in the private sector. As follow-up, 1 year after enactment the Secretary must submit a report to Congress identifying any barriers to immunization registry modernization and immunization coverage or access barriers with a particular emphasis on equity.
Adopting these measures will go a long way toward improving the secure bi-directional exchange of immunization record data among Federal, State, local, Tribal and territorial governmental and non-governmental entities — with one goal being to assess immunization access in medically underserved, rural and frontier areas. The bill also will support adopting the IIS functional standards of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
With 50+ years of experience in healthcare, Gainwell suggests that immunization registries can help health departments prepare for modernization and adoption of this legislation by identifying these things:
- Technical or policy barriers to capturing all vaccinations across all populations within the registry
- Technical or policy barriers to exchanging immunization data with other jurisdictions
- Key modernization priorities that improve data accuracy within the registry and/or enhance capabilities related to supply chain management, scheduling, clinical decision support for immunization (CDSi), and/or outbreak response
- Rapid identification of current system gaps to CDC functional standards and immunization coverage gaps
For more information on how you can get a better view of your immunization record data, outbreak response capabilities and decision support tools, you can read more here. It’s all about creating healthier communities through more accurate immunization information.