RFID Talk Blog

How RFID can save $2 billion worth of vaccines

New research from the Department of Health and Human Services suggests that healthcare providers routinely store vaccines at improper temperatures, potentially rendering them useless and placing children at risk. The report identified at least $800,000 worth of vaccine doses that may be ineffective, but the number could actually be well over $2 billion.

Operating without enhanced technology such as RFID-enabled refrigerators and freezers, 76 percent of the clinics visited by the DHHS stored vaccines at temperatures that were either too hot or too cold. In many cases, vaccines had already expired.

This vaccine clearly shows an expiration date of December 2010. DHSS visited these clinics in April and May of 2011.

That’s a primary reason why Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin is piloting RFID at one of its clinics to track and trace costly vaccines.

“I’ve seen the news report about the clinics that don’t store their vaccines properly,” says Dr. Steven Lo, who pursued the RFID pilot at one of Group Health Cooperative’s clinics. “We’re not talking about chump change here. Some of these drugs can be very expensive.

“If these vaccines aren’t being stored at the right temperature, then the manufacturer can’t guarantee their effectiveness. It’s just another benefit for an RFID system that provides excellent temperature tracking and alarm systems if necessary.”

Inspectors from the Department of Health and Human Services visited 45 healthcare providers in five states who offer free immunizations as part of the government’s Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program. The visits were conducted in April and May of 2011.

About 44,000 clinics participate in the program nationally. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services pay for the vaccines, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention distribute them. In 2010, approximately 82 million VFC vaccine doses were administered to an estimated 40 million children at a cost of $3.6 billion. It stands to reason that if 76 percent of facilities don’t store the vaccine properly, that $2.7 billion worth of vaccines might be in danger of not providing the protection that they are capable of.

Click here to read the full article from last week’s issue of RFID 24-7.

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