Vaccinations are more important than ever this year because of the disrupting impact that COVID-19 has had on the nation’s routinely recommended vaccination schedule. As we recognize National Immunization Awareness Month in August, protecting individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD) is vital to keeping children healthy, preventing VPD outbreaks, and reducing the burden of infectious diseases. Healthcare providers are key to this by emphasizing the importance of immunizations when communicating with your patients’ parents and caregivers, as well as by bringing your patients up-to-date on all their routinely recommended vaccinations. Together we can catch up to get ahead on immunizations.
We truly thank healthcare providers for being on the front-lines while continuing to care for your patients during this pandemic. As pediatricians, we understand how busy you are. During this time, we want to encourage our enhanced collective efforts to help mitigate the continuing impact of COVID-19 on the national rates of childhood immunizations now, before the influenza and SARS-CoV-2 viruses begin co-circulating.
We encourage providers to work with your practices to help identify children who missed a recommended vaccination and contact their parents or caregivers. When speaking with parents and caregivers, remind them of the importance of catching up with vaccinations. Explain to parents and caregivers the precautions your offices are taking to ensure they will remain safe during a visit, and provide an opportunity to answer parent questions via telehealth before an office visit. We encourage you to find ways to administer the vaccines, whether it is through #WellChildWednesdays or through the local health department, pharmacy, or health center. In addition, we ask that you work with partners and organizations in your communities to help prevent future outbreaks of VPD, such as measles, influenza, and whooping cough.
Here is a quick list of ways to help families catch-up on childhood vaccines:
- Consider extending your hours to accommodate more well-child visits and vaccine appointments.
- Use reminder-recalls and/or phone parents to reach children who have fallen behind.
- If you are not able to accommodate all of your patients, consider providing referrals to pharmacies, state or local health departments, and community health centers.
- Partner with the health department to host a vaccination clinic or event.
- Designate an immunization champion on your staff to ensure that all staff share a consistent message with parents/caregivers about the importance of childhood immunizations.
In addition to providing health care services, you can help spread the word by promoting the Catch Up to Get Ahead immunization campaign within social media:
- Use the catch-up hashtag: #CatchUpGetAhead
- Use the official National Immunization Awareness Month hashtag: #ivaxtoprotect
- Retweet messages from @HHS_ASH, @HHSvaccines, @Surgeon_General, and other partners.
Thank you for helping expand access to childhood vaccines and for helping your community and the nation avoid preventable diseases in the months to come.