SSG Blog

Using Disease Surveillance to Track National and State-Level School Vaccination Data

Posted on August 28th, 2023   |   SSG

Disease surveillance includes tracking the local vaccination rate. State and federal laws require children to be vaccinated to attend school. Public health agencies can utilize school vaccine data to better understand how many people in the area have been immunized against the disease. 

Tracking and predicting the spread of disease includes collecting information on vaccines, including whether school-age children have been vaccinated. Schools can easily become breeding grounds for disease because so many kids occupy small spaces and they may not have the knowledge or resources to protect themselves from infection. Children can spread the disease to their parents and loved ones at home, which can overwhelm the local healthcare system. 

Public health agencies can harness school vaccination data to better understand immunization levels within the community, how children and families feel about vaccines, and whether it is safe for children to go to school when faced with an emerging health crisis.

Learn how school vaccination data can be utilized on the state and national levels to predict the spread of disease. 

How is disease surveillance utilized to monitor school vaccination data? 

Disease surveillance runs on data, including the number of infections and how many people within the community have been vaccinated. Knowing the vaccination rate helps the agency determine how many people are at risk of catching the disease, the potential severity of their symptoms, and the likelihood of them passing the infection on to others. 

Children between the ages of 5 and 17 are often just as susceptible to disease as adults and likely need to be vaccinated for specific diseases to attend school based on the latest immunization requirements. 

School districts are typically tasked with collecting student vaccine information. Parents may be asked to share their children’s vaccine data with the school to secure them a spot in the classroom. The school can then share this information with the local public health agency to improve the accuracy of its vaccination records. 

The agency may also receive this data from private healthcare providers administering the vaccine to children. Once the information is collected, it is stored in the state/local immunization information system (IIS) before being passed on to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This information informs the agency’s response to the disease. If many children in the school haven’t been vaccinated, the agency can investigate why the rate is lower than those of other districts. It may be due to a lack of trust in the vaccine or medical system, language/cultural barriers, or lack of access to medical facilities that offer the shot. The information may be validated through a telephone survey or the national immunization survey (NIS).

Once the agency can monitor school vaccination trends, it can increase the rate among the area’s school-age population by setting up vaccination booths in the community, educating parents and caregivers on the benefits of getting their child vaccinated, and providing vaccine services in various languages. 

Increasing the vaccination rate among adults and children helps protect the community from the spread of disease. Once the threat of infection goes down, the agency may scale back its vaccination efforts to focus on other health issues, and vaccination may no longer be required for attendance. 

What types of information are collected through disease surveillance for school vaccination? 

In the United States, disease surveillance for school vaccinations typically includes the first and last name of the child, age or grade, which vaccines they have received, the school they attend, their medical history, and the time, date, and location in which the shot was given. 

The information collected may vary based on the jurisdiction and local vaccination requirements. Some areas allow medical and religious exemptions for certain vaccines, which may be collected in lieu of vaccination data. 

What are the potential benefits of using disease surveillance for tracking school vaccination data? 

Transferring school vaccination data to the disease surveillance system helps public health officials protect the community from the spread of disease. It gives the agency more insight into the number of people who have been vaccinated, so it can more accurately predict the likelihood of an outbreak. 

The vaccination rate among school-age children can affect health policies at the state and local levels. In the event of an outbreak, the agency must decide whether to close the school based on the vaccination rate and the potential impact on the student body. Closing the schools temporarily or switching to remote learning may be necessary to help slow the spread until more people can be immunized. 

Having access to this data also helps the public health agency take steps to increase coverage rates by appealing directly to families who have not had their shots. 

Are there any privacy concerns associated with disease surveillance for school vaccination data? 

Federal and state laws prevent organizations, including the child’s school and local health department, from sharing or using this information for anything but disease surveillance. 

Vaccination data qualifies as personally identifiable information (PII), which means it can be used to identify your child. Therefore, it must be protected under federal privacy laws, including HIPAA. Parents and guardians have a right to know how their child’s data is used. 

The state IIS limits access to the vaccination database to prevent unauthorized individuals from obtaining this information. Approved users must create a strong password and username when accessing the system. They also need to verify their credentials to view PII. All data stored on the IIS is protected by a secure firewall that complies with the latest privacy requirements. 

Monitoring the vaccination rate, including school vaccine data, is key to preventing the spread of disease. Organizations should be able to send this information quickly and securely to the local health authority without violating privacy protections. 

SSG’s Disease Surveillance System, Casetivity-EDSS, is designed to help states and jurisdictions use this data. Contact us to learn more about how our software can improve the surveillance of vaccine-preventable diseases.