With the start of a new year, we often reflect on years past and how we can improve moving forward. These last few years, the medical and public health field has been bombarded with struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic: constantly changing COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, declining vaccination rates across the board, and an overall uptick in vaccine hesitancy. Further, the 2022–2023 flu season is already overwhelming, while vaccination rates have been lagging. As we enter 2023, now is the time to encourage patients of every age to get caught up on all recommended vaccines in the new year.
According to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR), statewide coverage for children 19 through 35 months with the 43133142 (4 DTaP, 3 Polio, 1 MMR, 3 Hib, 3 HepB, 1 Varicella, 4 PCV, 2 HepA) series as of September 2022 remains about 3.5 percentage points below pre-pandemic levels. Further, statewide coverage for adolescents 13 through 17 years of age for the 1323213 (1 Tdap, 3 Polio, 2 MMR, 3 HepB, 2 Varicella, 1 MenACWY, 2 or 3 HPV) series fell by less than 1 percentage point from 43.2% in Jan 2020 just before the pandemic to 42.9% in September 2022, whereas coverage for the same series without HPV fell by more than 4% from 77% in Jan 2020 to 72.8% in March 2022. Finally, comparing the total number of doses administered in January–September 2022 to the January–September, 2018–19 average, we find that the overall number of non-COVID doses administered lags pre-pandemic levels by 11.5%. With reduced vaccine administration and lagging vaccination rates, unvaccinated or under-vaccinated patients are susceptible to preventable illness and communities are at risk for outbreaks. Now is the time to implement strategies to promote vaccination schedule adherence and ensure catch-up vaccination for patients at every age.
Routine vaccination prevents illnesses that lead to unnecessary medical visits and hospitalizations, and further strain the healthcare system. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends the use of COVID-19 vaccines for everyone ages six months and older. Further, COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines may be administered on the same day. Visit the COVID-19 Vaccine: Interim COVID-19 Immunization Schedule for more information on COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.1 All recommended vaccines due or overdue should be administered according to the recommended CDC immunization schedules during each visit unless there is a specific contraindication.2 This will provide protection as soon as possible and minimize the number of healthcare visits needed to complete vaccination.
The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized just how quickly disease can spread among unvaccinated persons, especially within the adult population. It is crucial that adult patients are not only up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, but also on all recommended vaccines as well. Healthcare professionals are the most valued and trusted source of health information for adults. Research shows that most adults believe vaccines are important and that a recommendation from their healthcare professional is the strongest predictor of adults getting vaccinated. Healthcare personnel, whether they administer vaccines or not, should take steps to ensure their patients continue to receive vaccines according to the Standards for Adult Immunization Practice.3
Now is the time to catch your patients, at every age, up on any vaccines they may need, including COVID-19 vaccine and boosters. Healthcare providers are strongly encouraged to utilize the MCIR to generate reminders and recall letters of patients that are overdue or coming due for recommended vaccines. Make this year the year that all your patients are up to date on all ACIP recommended vaccines, so that together we can have a happy, healthy 2023.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2022, Nov 15. Interim COVID-19 Immunization Schedule for Persons 6 Months of Age and Older. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/downloads/COVID-19-immunization-schedule-ages-6months-older.pdf.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2022, Feb 17. Immunization Schedules for Healthcare Providers. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2016, May 2. Adult Vaccination Information for Healthcare and Public Health Professionals. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/adults/index.html.