Professor developing biometric vaccination registry
06 October 2014 16:37 GMT

The professor says biometrics offer a more effective method to store a baby's vaccine schedule than paper records.

A computer science professor from Michigan State University has revealed plans to develop a fingerprint-based recognition system which will track exactly which vaccines children have been given.

Computer science and engineering professor Anil Jain presented the results of a study on increasing vaccination coverage through fingerprint recognition at the International Joint Conference on Biometrics, which was held in Clearwater, Florida last week.

Jain said that in developing countries keeping track of a baby's vaccine schedule on paper can often be dangerously ineffective.

"Our initial study has shown that fingerprints of infants and toddlers have great potential to accurately record immunizations. You can lose a paper document, but not your fingerprints,” he told Michigan State University Today.

Jain’s team tested the system in rural health facilities in Benin, West Africa, with optical fingerprint readers used to scan the thumbs and index fingers of babies and toddlers.

The plan is for healthcare workers to simply re-scan the child's fingers to view the vaccination schedule - each year, an estimated 2.5 million children die worldwide because they do not receive life-saving vaccinations at the appropriate time.

''We will continue to work on refining the fingerprint matching software and finding the best reader to capture fingerprints of young children, which will be of immense global value. We also plan to conduct a longitudinal study to ensure that fingerprints of babies can be successfully matched over time," Jain told the university newspaper.

He said that collecting fingerprints from fidgety infants was not easy, and that small fingerprint patterns have low contrast between ridges and valleys. 

Mark Thomas, an executive director of VaxTrac, a nonprofit organization that has supported Jain’s research, says that there will be other benefits of fingerprint scanning, in addition to tracking vaccinations.

In March, Lumidigm announced that its multispectral imaging fingerprint sensors, as part of a solution created by VaxTrac, were helping to stop vaccine waste in Benin.

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