***View the video above to learn about the history of vaccine tracking registries and the national vaccination plan and read new information about current tracking plans using CDC's V-safe smartphone app below.***
Information presented during the June National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) meeting indicated that V-safe's passive electronic post-vaccination monitoring system is slated to monitor more than COVID-19 vaccines. When asked if V-safe would be ready this Fall to monitor the new RSV vaccine and influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Anne Hause from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) responded that this was the goal but that CDC was uncertain if this goal would be met by Fall. It was also stated at the meeting that at some point in the future, V-safe would be able to track which vaccine recipients participating in V-safe are immune-compromised.1
The V-safe program was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic and sent electronic health survey questions via smartphones to COVID-19 vaccine recipients up to twelve months post-vaccination. During the pandemic, 10.1 million COVID-19 vaccine recipients responded to the V-safe health surveys.2 Participation in V-safe is voluntary and uses unique tracking identification numbers for vaccine recipients and the vaccine received. On May 19, 2023, the CDC closed enrollment in V-safe for COVID-19 vaccines and notes on its website that a new version of the program is in development.3
Such use of V-safe raises questions about why V-safe is receiving such an investment rather than strengthening the more robust Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) in the same manner and streamlining efforts.
Unlike V-safe, VAERS, which is also a passive monitoring system, offers a higher level of public transparency with a public-facing search engine,4 allowing for various searches on reactions reports submitted to the system by vaccinators and individuals alike. VAERS also allows members of the public to file adverse event reports directly into the system when their vaccinators refuse or neglect to do so.
The public can also more easily search VAERS data using NVIC’s Medalerts search engine to learn more about the types of reactions reported for numerous vaccines in use in the U.S.
Vaccine Safety Draft Recommendations for Tracking Vaccine Status
It may also be possible for V-safe to gather vaccine status information on existing vaccines should the program continue to expand. The gathering of vaccine status information is of interest federally. In 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) launched an initiative to enable vaccination data exchange and use between the CDC, state and local health departments, and other partners.5 6
Accomplishing this data exchange is seen as necessary, and the NVAC’s Vaccine Safety Subcommittee reported that formidable legal hurdles prevent states from sharing vaccine status from vaccine tracking registries with other states. Draft recommendations from this subcommittee included a recommendation to develop state model legislation requiring registries to share their information across states.7 However, some states are already sharing vaccine-tracking data.
To assist with federal surveillance initiatives,8 a legal scan was published in 2023 by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) that included 57 jurisdictions. These jurisdictions comprise all U.S. states, New York City, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.9 According to this ASTHO report, 16 jurisdictions already share vaccine tracking registry information with other vaccine registries, and 28 allow health providers to access vaccine status data.10
Notably, ASTHO is a charitable non-profit organization (501(c)3) that received 83 percent of its over $45 million operating revenue from government grants in 202011 and has a stated strategic priority for public health systems, like vaccine tracking registries, to provide seamless data exchange.12
It is unclear what the future expansion of V-safe holds outside plans discussed at the most recent meeting of the NVAC and if participation in the new iteration of the program will remain voluntary. However, it's possible that the expansion of V-safe may solve some of the legal data-sharing hurdles that exist with state vaccine registries.
1 Hause, A. NVAC Presentation: COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Review. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services June 15, 2023.
7 National Vaccine Advisory Committee Vaccine Safety Subcommittee. Optimizing Immunization Information Systems - Draft Recommendation 25. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services June 15, 2023.
11 The Association of State and Territorial Officials. Form 990: Part VIII Statement of Revenue 1e – Government Grants (Contributions). 2020.
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