Although rates for childhood immunization in the U.S. improve each year, the work of educating parents, providers and the public about the importance of immunizations is ongoing. In addition to responding to new issues and concerns, health professionals must immunize a brand new cohort of babies every year.
As resources and public service projects are scaled back due to the ongoing economic challenges throughout the United States, limited access to immunizations is also becoming a challenge for families and individuals. Over the past year, many parents have lost their jobs as well as their health care coverage and families are finding it increasingly difficult keep their children and themselves up to date on vaccinations. This lack of resources underscores the importance of partnerships between coalitions and health departments to educate families and communities about the availability of free or low-cost immunizations.
In the United States alone thousands of adults die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases such as influenza, pneumonia and hepatitis B. And many parents are still surprised to learn that their preteens need additional immunizations to continue protecting them from ‘childhood’ diseases, as well as diseases they may be exposed to as young adults.
The success of vaccines in general has resulted in a mistaken belief that these diseases no longer exist and that vaccinations are unnecessary. This misperception is now putting communities at risk for a resurgence of diseases such as pertussis, mumps, and measles. Likewise, a lack of awareness by some health care providers contributes to low immunization rates for adults as they disregard the significant role and responsibility of educating adult patients about the benefits of vaccination and risks of disease. Without education and recommendation from their health care provider, many adults are unaware that there are a variety of vaccines that are recommended for them, to guard against vaccine preventable diseases that can lead to serious illness and death.
While public health programs have made significant gains in educating pediatric providers about the importance of immunization and reducing missed opportunities to immunize adults, healthcare providers must also be encouraged to make this a priority for their practice. Health professionals are not immune to myths and misinformation regarding vaccinations. Clear, succinct, fact-based information about how vaccines work and the risks and benefits to staff members as well as to their patients can help strengthen and support employee health and patient vaccination programs.
The need for information and the ability to exchange new ideas and innovations has never been greater. We ask you to join us by participating in our free webinars, signing up for our e-newsletter and utilizing new media and social media to spread the word about the importance and safety of vaccinations.