One year after the start of the Corona outbreak, COVID-19 vaccines are about to arrive. These vaccines are new, and the distribution channels will also be new, given the necessity for mass vaccination on an unprecedented scale.

How can we track and trace who was vaccinated with what and when? A Commentary in the Medical Journal Vaccine, published on November 27, 2020 calls on stakeholders to get ready to ensure the proper documentation of vaccination administration.

It is vital that each administered COVID-19 vaccine should be precisely identified everywhere and anywhere across the world so that we can accurately monitor the effectiveness and safety of each type of vaccine.

Such a global, uniform registration requires an internationally agreed-on system, which can be based on globally-unique identification numbers. These should be connected to the existing national marketing authorisation and distribution numbers and be printed on the vaccine packages and on vials or syringes through scannable two-dimensional, information-rich barcodes.

These barcodes can contain data such as vaccine identification, date of production/expiration, lot number, and a check digit to guarantee the authenticity of the medicine. The person responsible for vaccination could scan each administered vaccine and automatically send the information to national vaccine registries, and forward the information to medical and pharmaceutical records and patient health records. Patients could receive a trustworthy vaccination certificate to be presented e.g. when travelling of in case of symptoms.

Industry and authorities have not yet taken all steps to roll out such a system which would allow to build public trust and maximise vaccine uptake.

Only with a robust registration system can we efficiently monitor the use, authenticity, efficacy and safety of Covid-19 vaccines. This should go hand in hand with respect for the crucial requirements of trustworthy health data handling.

Click here to access the Commentary 

The authors

The Commentary authors: Vander Stichele RH, Hay C, Fladvad M, Sturkenboom M, Chen RT.

They work on this issue in the context of UNICOM, a European project in which i~HD is a partner, and in the Brighton Collaboration, an international task force on vaccine safety.

First author of this article, Professor Robert Vander Stichele, Department of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Gent, is a senior researcher at i~HD.