BATON ROUGE- Louisiana’s electronic system for tracking childhood immunizations has received the highest award from the American Immunization Registry Association for its excellent service during Hurricane Katrina.

According to a news release issued by the American Immunization Registry Association, the Louisiana Immunization Network for Kids Statewide (LINKS) was awarded the AIRA’s Special Recognition Award for “excellence of service in the face of extraordinary circumstances during Hurricane Katrina.”

The AIRA’s Board of Directors said the service performed by the LINKS staff was without parallel.

“With thousands of families homeless and displaced to other states … the LINKS staff worked tirelessly to make sure the data in their system was available to registries around the country. This enabled children to start school and avoid the pain of unnecessary vaccinations. In many cases, people displaced by the hurricane had no formal identification other than their immunizations records (that could be) downloaded from LINKS,” the AIRA said.

Dr. Fred Cerise, LDH secretary, said the recognition is welcome, and that it also demonstrates Louisiana’s commitment to using technology to provide better access to medical information.

“In the health care area alone, Katrina presented us with unbelievably difficult challenges. But, when it came to meeting the immediate needs of children who needed shots, the LINKS system proved to be invaluable,” he said. “LINKS showed us the real time value of having instant access to health records. Today, we are taking this lesson and building upon it to provide immediate access to other electronic health information.”

Last November, LDH was awarded a grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services to develop a health information sharing and electronic health record support system that can be used by doctors, hospitals and clinics.

The award from the American Immunization Registry Association will be presented to LDH at a special Awards Recognition event next week in Atlanta. The AIRA is a voluntary organization with more than 150 members.