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Vaccinations for Babies Can be Tracked Through New Fingerprint Scanning System

First Posted: Sep 30, 2014 07:20 AM EDT

There may be a new way to save the lives of children. Scientists have found that a fingerprint-based recognition method to track vaccination schedules could potentially save infants and toddlers from disease worldwide.

Each year, about 2.5 million children die worldwide because they do not receive vaccinations at the appropriate time. To increase converage, these vaccinations need to be recorded and tracked; currently, most parents due this through a paper document, yet these documents can be lost, which could mean that a child may be placed at risk.

"Paper documents are easily lost or destroyed," said Anil Jain, one of the researchers, in a news release. "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."

The researchers constructed a new fingerprint recognition system and then traveled to rural health facilities in West Africa to test it. They used an optical fingerprint reader to scan the thumbs and index fingers of both babies and toddlers. From this data, the scientists created a schedule that became part of a vaccine registry system.

Once this registry system is in place, all health care workers have to do is re-scan the child's fingers in order to see the vaccination schedule. This shows who has been vaccinated for what diseases and what additional booster shots may be needed.

"The process can still be improved but we have shown its feasibility," said Jain. "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."

The findings reveal that new systems could potentially help save lives. The new fingerprint system in particular could be a major boon in places where paperwork can be misplaced or lost.

The findings are published online here.

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