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Partnering to Better Distribute Vaccine

San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital and IntelliGuard, a local technology company are working together on a collaboration to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine in Southern California.

Executives from both organizations said the partnership has allowed the hospital to store the COVID-19 vaccine securely while also offering tracking capabilities to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Founded in 2006, IntelliGuard helps healthcare executives better manage pharmaceutical inventory and critical care supplies leveraging RFID technology. It works by placing RFID tags on medicine bottles or in this case the COVID-19 vaccine.

IntelliGuard, who has been a longstanding partner with the hospital, said it is providing hardware and software technology to effectively secure the vaccines in the freezers used by Rady Children’s Hospital for storage. 

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Through IntelliGuard’s support, Rady’s staff have automated access and control, providing visibility into who accessed the vaccines and when, in real time.

“Rady was the first hospital on the planet to have this technology,” said Paul Elizondo, VP of Engineering and R&D at IntelliGuard. “We have quite a history with Rady, they’re certainly bellwethers when it comes to adopting technology. They are leading the way in revolutionizing the way we track medication in hospitals.”

By tapping into the Internet of Things (IoT), organizations can use internet-connected medical devices and equipment to enable different systems to speak to one another and ensure information is updated across departments rather than being held up in siloes.

As a result, healthcare management now has a better idea of a hospital’s inventory, help with patient safety and cost-control efforts.

Distributing the COVID-19 Vaccine

In December, Rady received nearly 2,000 doses from Pfizer with many of the initial doses being administered to doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists, as well as custodians and other staffers who have contact with COVID-19 patients.

Rady is also working to provide doses to the greater San Diego region. Through an initiative formed in May 2020, the county is paying Rady $1,800 per day for up to 1,000 tests and an additional $3,600 per day for an additional thousand per day.

“We were one of the first (hospitals) to receive vaccines and we are the first use of this RFID technology,” said Chris Abe, vice president of operations at Rady Children’s Hospital. “We’ve been using the technology for access control, as we’re performing mass vaccination with over a thousand doses a day with both our employees as well as working with the county.”

Rady also received the equipment health care workers need to administer the vaccine — including syringes, needles, bandages and alcohol wipes — from McKesson, a medical supply distributor contracted by the U.S. government.

In total, more than 17 million doses have been distributed across the country, with nearly 50,000 coming to San Diego so far and over 21,000 administered county wide.

Storing the Vaccine

To store the vaccine, Rady is using IntelliGuard’s RFID-enabled temperature-controlled cabinets (similar to small refrigerators) which acts as a kit and tray processing system.

“We have partnered with Rady to provide them an RFID enabled refrigerator that is also access controlled, where they will be storing the vaccines once they are removed from the freezer,” said Elise Claudepierre, vice president of marketing, product and sales at IntelliGuard.

The Pfizer vaccine is being stored in an ultra-low temperature freezer. Pfizer’s vaccine requires two doses, three weeks apart. The two-dose vaccine is 95 percent effective at preventing people from getting sick with COVID-19.

Rady also received doses from Massachusetts biotech Moderna, which doesn’t need to be at ultra-low temperature levels.

Only four people at the entire hospital have access to the freezer, which is kept in a room monitored with security cameras, said Abe.

“We’re very passionate about providing hospitals the ability to really track and trace down to the vial as much as necessary,” said Claudepierre. “The pandemic has only further emphasized the need for the industry to be able to really lock down the ability to track and trace those high value in critical medication.”

Serving More than 200 Customers

“Hospitals can simply apply one of our RFID tags, go into our smart enclosures and we can track them. From there, we know exactly who was dispensed these vaccines at what time and how long they’ve been out,” said Elizondo. “Over 200 customers across this country use our technology to track different medications. This vaccine is no different.”

More than 230 acute care hospitals in the United States use the Intelliguard system, to date. Its clients include Sharp Memorial Hospital, Emanate Health, University of Chicago and Rady Children’s Hospital, among others.

Looking forward IntelliGuard aims to expand beyond Rady helping more hospitals distribute its vaccines.

“This was kind of our first entree into helping them secure, track and trace the vaccine,” said Elizondo. “I’d love to see us expand.”

The Howard family, onetime owner of Howard Publications which formerly published North County newspapers and current owner of Michigan-based Howard Energy Co. Inc., owns IntelliGuard.

Intelliguard assembles its product in Carlsbad. Technology partners include Seattle-based Impinj Inc. RFID device and software manufacturer as well as eAgile Inc. which makes its smart label. The business holds more than 24 U.S. patents.

Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego is the largest children’s hospital in California and provides services to San Diego, southern Riverside and Imperial counties. Rady has nearly 700 physicians and more than 1,000 nurses on staff, nearly 3,000 employees, 450 active volunteers, and more than 1,200 auxiliary staff.

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