The COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted life-saving vaccination at a global level, leaving millions at risk for infection with measles, meningitis, polio, and whooping cough. Now that schools have returned to in-person learning, children need to get caught up on routine vaccinations, so they are protected against serious diseases. Healthcare providers are uniquely positioned to identify families with children who are missing critical doses and contact them to schedule catch-up appointments.
With the 2022–23 flu season ramping up and the inevitable prospect that the flu and COVID-19 viruses will circulate at the same time, now is the time to ensure that all children are caught up on their vaccines. In accordance with general best practices, routine administration of all age-appropriate doses of vaccines simultaneously is recommended for children, adolescents, and adults for whom no specific contraindications exist at the time of the healthcare visit. Getting patients up to date on vaccines now will prevent illnesses that lead to unnecessary medical visits, hospitalizations, and an additional strain on the healthcare system.
Protecting communities from vaccine-preventable diseases is one of the most important things you can do to keep us all healthy and prevent outbreaks. A strong recommendation from a trusted healthcare provider is the best predictor of vaccination. It is now more important than ever to assess vaccination status of all of your patients, at every medical visit, whether the visit is in-person or remote (telephone, online, etc.).
Healthcare providers have the knowledge, experience, and authority to make a strong case for vaccination, as well as the trust of their patients. When recommending vaccination, assume that most people will choose to vaccinate. This presumptive approach to recommending vaccination has been proven to be effective.
Promptly schedule in-person appointments for catch-up vaccinations. Use the influence you have with your patients to get them caught up on vaccines. You can implement the following tactics to encourage follow through on vaccination:
- Extend your service hours (evenings and weekends) for vaccination services or to accommodate more appointments with vaccinations.
- Use your patient reminder-recall system and notifications to reach patients and parents with children who have fallen behind on their vaccinations.
- Provide referrals to another place where vaccines are available, such as pharmacies or local health department immunization clinics.
- Partner with the health department or community groups to host a vaccination clinic or event. This strategy could be repeated for
flu vaccines during flu season starting in October. CDC provides guidance on planning satellite vaccination clinics.
It is crucial to communicate the importance of immunizations and ensure your patients are up to date on their vaccinations. You can champion vaccination in your practice by ensuring all staff are up to date on their vaccinations and that they are sharing frequent and consistent messages about the importance of immunizations.
- Catch-up Immunization Schedule for Children and Adolescents Who Start Late or Who Are More than 1 Month Behind. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/catchup.html
- Childhood Vaccination Toolkit for Clinicians. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/childhood-vaccination-toolkit.html
- Multiple Injections/Coadministration of Vaccines. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/admin/administer-vaccines.html#multiple-injections
- COVID-19 vaccine and coadministration with other vaccines. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/clinical-considerations/interim-considerations-us.html#timing-spacing-interchangeability
- Timing and Spacing of Immunobiologics. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/acip-recs/general-recs/timing.html