On Jan. 15, New Brunswick’s Health Minister held up a little blue card, and said he would soon be able to “throw it away.”

The card outlined his immunization record, at least some of it.

“It is not complete, some stuff is on, some isn’t. I’ve had a shot when I didn’t have my card and things like that,” Ted Flemming said. “This is not the best way to do things.”

Flemming was part of an announcement promising that in the future New Brunswickers could expect electronic immunization records. 

But don’t throw away your ‘little blue card’ just yet.

The implementation of the three-phase “public health information solution” will take a few years. Work on the immunization registry portion, or phase 2, was supposed to begin this month. It’s delayed until early next year.

“The program has been updated recently, so we want to make sure that we have the most up-to-date part of that system,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Jennifer Russell. “My understanding is that phase two will be implemented in 2020, in early 2020, with the third phase rolling out after that.”

But Dr. Russell says the first phase is mostly complete, and public health is already seeing the benefits.

It electronically tracks vaccine inventory - where vaccinations are in the province, and how many are actually making it into the arms of New Brunswickers.

“The benefits you see from that system are things like a decrease in product loss, so for instance, in Nova Scotia, when they implemented that phase of the system, they went from produce loss of 10 per cent to two per cent,” she said.

Before, unused doses could end up in the garbage. Now, any excess can be redirected elsewhere. So, in the case of the most recent measles outbreak in the Saint John region, officials would be able to see that there were extra doses in, say, Caraquet, and redirect them to Saint John.

Dr. Sandra Magalhaes is an epidemiologist and says having reliable data at Public Health’s finger tips will get vaccines to places in need, faster.

“Paper entry takes a long time and is very human resources intensive,” she said. “I think that it’s definitely a benefit in terms of using the resources that we have.

“Otherwise, if a location has vaccine supply, that another location needs, and we’re not aware, then we would have to purchase those vaccines again and that’s really, I think, a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Dr. Russell says the other benefit they’ve seen is in how public health replenishes its flu vaccine supply.

“So, normally, it would take a week or so to do that. It happened within about three hours,” she said.

Once the immunization registry is complete, your vaccinations will be tracked on a go-forward basis. Which means don’t throw away your ‘little blue card’ – as an adult, you’ll need to show what you’ve already received.

But for children, the hope is that their immunization history will be entered.

“There is a plan to look at the immunization status of all children’s records,” she said. “That information is all held on paper, right now in files. And so to take that information and put it in the system would be a goal.”