A top public health official in Nova Scotia says the province needs an electronic vaccination registry for handling immunization records and properly tracking the spread of communicable diseases.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health Frank Atherton says individual district health authorities are responsible for keeping vaccination records and those records are on paper, not in electronic form.

Atherton says the province doesn't even know how much of last year's flu vaccine actually made it into the arms of Nova Scotians. Same goes for other vaccine preventable illnesses such as measles.        

"When we have a threat as we have now with measles around in other parts of Canada, not fortunately in Nova Scotia, it's very difficult for us to look at our records and to say, well which children do we need to target for immunization with measles vaccine," he said testifying before a legislature committee on Wednesday.

"Where do we have gaps in our coverage rates? Where should we put our best efforts if we're going to contain any possible outbreak or head off an outbreak that might be coming our way."

Atherton says e-records would solve those problems.

The province has been working on an electronic health record system since 2004, but abandoned a national effort five years ago.

Atherton says the national system was too expensive and needs more work.

"The problem with it is that it's inefficient and ineffective. It doesn't quite do what we need, so we do have interim solutions. We have bought into those. We are limping along with those but what we're looking to do in line with the auditor general's recommendations is to build a more effective and more modern system," he said.

Atherton says the province is still trying to determine what it needs and won't be ready to move ahead with finding a system this year.