HealthMap helps patients locate nearby vaccination sites

HealthMap Vaccine Finder pinpoints nearby vaccination sites.--Courtesy of HealthMap

Computer technology is being used more widely in upping vaccination rates worldwide. A team of researchers, epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children's Hospital rolled out a free online service that helps people locate nearby vaccine providers in an effort to boost immunization numbers.

HealthMap Vaccine Finder allows users to enter an address or zipcode to find locations that provide any of 11 different shots: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, HPV, MMR, varicella, Td, Tdap, meningococcal, zoster, pneumococcal, and influenza. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is a partner in the project. Google ($GOOG), too, played a role in establishing the vaccine finder when it retired its own flu vaccine finder.

HealthMap works with clinics, pharmacies and health departments to provide up-to-date information about where to get shots. The expansion of HealthMap Vaccine Finder--which initially directed individuals only to the flu shot--aims to increase adult vaccination rates the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently dubbed "unacceptably low." Only 20% of adults younger than age 65 are vaccinated against pneumococcal diseases, and only about 16% of people age 60 and older got the jab for shingles.

This isn't the first time experts have turned to technology to increase low vaccination rates. In December, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) teamed up with mobile phone group Vodafone to use text messages to alert mothers about the availability of vaccinations and help them to schedule appointments. And Pfizer ($PFE) offers a downloadable app called Vaxtext that helps parents and caregivers track their child's vaccination schedule through reminders about when vaccines are due delivered via text message.

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