Free app helps patients keep track of vaccination history
A still image from a YouTube video showing the Immunize Canada app.
TORONTO -- If you are like most people, you have absolutely no clue when you last had a tetanus shot or when your polio booster is due. Even if you have a yellow immunization book, you may not know where to find it.
And if you're a parent, you may have a hard time keeping track of when your daughter is due for an HPV vaccination or which vaccinations your son will get in Grade 9.
A new smartphone app could make those hassles a thing of the past.
The free and bilingual ImmunizeCA app can log a whole family's vaccination history, sending you reminders of when you or your children are due for vaccinations, tailoring the alerts to the schedule in the province or territory in which you live. It can also link you to reputable information about those vaccines.
"As a parent who thinks vaccination is important, I think this is a brilliant idea," said Dr. Michael Gardam, head of infection control at Toronto's University Health Network.
"It is remarkably old fashioned that these things are (still) written in books. Half the time when I see people's vaccination records I can't even read what's written there," said Gardam, who was not involved in the project.
The app was developed by researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in conjunction with the Canadian Public Health Association and the organization Immunize Canada. The work was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The app is available for iPhones, Androids and Android-enabled Blackberrys. It can be downloaded at the App Store, Google Play and Blackberry World.
Information will be stored on individual phones, but people can also upload it to the iCloud or Google Drive. That way, if you lose or replace your phone, the information itself is not lost.
The project was the brainchild of Dr. Kumanan Wilson, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Health Research Institute. He and Cameron Bell, an electrical engineering student at McGill University, had earlier developed a prototype version of this app, geared solely to residents in Ontario and available only for iPhones.
Wilson said the app won't be an official immunization record, but will help people manage their own health information and to get accurate information on immunizations.
The app can and should be password protected, he said. And people who use apps that can scrub data remotely from a lost or stolen phone would be able to remotely delete their immunization records too.
Wilson says if provinces or territories change their immunization schedules, updates can be built into the program. The program could also notify people of outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases near them and tell them the corresponding vaccine status of every member of their family.
"We designed this for individuals to help them with their health information. But in the process we think we can help public health," he said.
"Recent outbreaks across Canada show us that infectious diseases can still be a threat if your vaccinations aren't up to date," Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association said in a statement.
"It is imperative that we all maintain our vaccinations, from infancy to your senior years, and the ImmunizeCA app can help us, right at our fingertips."