Vaccines remain one of the most important tools that can be used to improve health. However, there are millions of children each year who are not vaccinated (a great overview: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2284/). This number is simply unacceptable. Vaccines are usually available, but issues around the supply and distribution of these vaccines limit their efficient delivery. Unfortunately, of the vaccines that are delivered, many are given to children who have already been inoculated but do not have adequate records. These children are re-inoculated to be safe, wasting the valuable resource. Organisations like VaxTrac (http://vaxtrac.com/) are working to solve some of these problems using innovative software, but in the meantime another system is needed to track vaccination.
VaxBeads are 3D printed immunization records which will make it easier to determine what vaccines a child needs. Each bead represents a different vaccine. The shape and colour of each bead is unique to a specific vaccine. The beads are customized on the spot with the child's initials, date of birth, and an identifying number. If possible, this number will correspond to some form of national identification. The name of the vaccine and the date given are printed on the bead. Vaccines given in multiple doses are marked with a number that corresponds to the dose.
Vaccination cards are easily lost or destroyed, and their value is often difficult to convey. VaxBeads are more durable than a vaccination card, and the customized object will hopefully seem more valuable than a slip of paper. It is also easier and quicker to read than a vaccination card, especially when multiple cards have been used for one child. This tool allows health care workers to quickly assess which vaccines a child has and which vaccines a child needs. It also gives parents a simple tool to ensure that their child has the necessary vaccines. A sample poster for parents is shown above.
The beads could be worn as a bracelet or necklace on days when vaccinations are given, and stored at other times. A similar concept would be to 3D print pieces of a watchband. When the watchband is completed, the child would be given a watch to wear with the band.
The VaxBeads could be used as part of a program to promote vaccination. A completed set of beads, with the patient information matching, could be shown to an organization in exchange for goods or money. This would essential reimburse the parents for any expenses or troubles they took to get the child the proper vaccinations. This incentive would give more motivation for people to actively seek vaccines their child is missing.
Most importantly, a simple tool like this allows people to easily determine if their children are getting appropriate medical care. This empowers them to petition their local governments and get the care they need.
Printing of these beads should be relatively easy. The overhangs in the designed part would need to be tweaked depending on the printer. The size of the bead could also be adjusted depending on the resolution of the printer. The largest technical hurdle would be the use different coloured plastics. This would be especially problematic if multiple vaccines were given at the same time, as switching polymers takes some time and cause some material waste. Although multiple colours would allow for easier differentiation, the shape alone could also be used. As printers continue to advance, multiple colour printing should become easier to accomplish.
The current beads represent some typical vaccines:Yellow Fever, Hib, MMR and DTP. MMR is given in two rounds, hence the MMR 1 and 2. It is easy to see that you could make all sorts of beads.
The red cube has a smiley face on one side. This could be customized based on the child's preference. Immunizations are necessary, not fun. That is no reason to be dreary.