Preparing for National Immunization Awareness Month

A Strong Recommendation to Vaccinate is an Effective Recommendation

by Pamela G. Rockwell, DO, FAAFP, American Academy of Family Physician Liaison to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices; Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan

July 22, 2020—August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NAIM). With the United States influenza season just around the corner and a pandemic crisis with COVID-19 infections raging across our country, let’s take this time to highlight the importance of vaccinations to protect patients of all ages against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting a drop in vaccination rates as many patients and families are declining or delaying trips to medical facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us make sure that children and adults continue to receive required recommended vaccines to prevent additional infectious disease outbreaks such as Measles, Mumps, and Pertussis, on top of the current SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.

A safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine will not be available to the public before the 2020-2021 influenza season begins. Therefore, in addition to childhood/adolescent/adult required vaccines such as the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR), Tdap, and Pneumococcal vaccines, it is imperative that influenza vaccines are strongly promoted and provided this year above all previous years to prevent predicted catastrophic morbidity and mortality if persons are infected with both influenza and SARS-CoV-2. The CDC's 2020-2021 influenza vaccine recommendations have not changed from the recommendations of last year: an annual influenza vaccine for all individuals aged 6 months and older is recommended.

Research shows that healthcare professionals are the most trusted source of vaccine information for parents and patients. The CDC offers vaccine-provider and patient educational resources as well as the #HowIRecommend Video Series, which offers simple and practical guidance for having successful vaccine conversations with parents and patients. These short videos demonstrate how to make effective vaccine recommendations, address common patient vaccine safety and side effects questions, and give examples on how to address patient vaccine hesitancy or refusal, using both individual and team-based approaches.

Through web-based videos with continuing education offered through December 4, 2021, CDC guidance on how nurses and medical assistants can help foster a culture of immunization in your practice are available.

The non-profit, CDC-affiliated, family physician-run Immunization Action Coalition is another excellent resource to answer physician and vaccine-provider questions regarding immunizations. In addition, the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR) also serves as an important resource for vaccine-providers in Michigan to keep track of patients' vaccination status and vaccine recommendations.

As August quickly approaches, be mindful of NIAM beginning August 1 and take advantage of available resources to help improve the health and well-being of our communities through increased immunization uptake. Remember, a strong recommendation to vaccinate is an effective recommendation!