As August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), healthcare providers have a great responsibility in communicating accurate information to those seeking advice. Conversations about immunizations have been much more frequent in the past eight months as the COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed.
The entire country is discussing vaccines in regards to their safety and efficacy right now. As trusted sources for medical advice, it is essential that healthcare providers educate themselves about immunizations as much as possible. Now more than ever, as we slowly work our way out of this pandemic, it is essential that clinicians offer guidance to their communities.
While the internet can be an excellent channel for communication, entertainment, and information, there are also unfortunate aspects to having our digital world be so accessible. Part of that challenge is the prevalence of misinformation regarding vaccinations. This is an area where healthcare providers can present unbiased information to those with questions and concerns.
Since the COVID-19 vaccines are rightfully on everyone’s mind these days, let’s look at those first. As of August 2, 2021, 164.9 million, or almost half, of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated. 57.8% of the population has received at least one dose. The CDC says, "COVID-19 vaccines are a critical tool to stop the pandemic and help stop the spread of COVID-19, including variants." These stats are vitally important to all of us, and the best way to trend in the right direction is by increasing the numbers of those vaccinated.
Even though COVID-19 vaccines are leading the news cycle every day, it is important to remember that NIAM is about awareness for all immunizations from infancy through adulthood. Vaccines are the reason we don’t have to worry about childhood diseases like polio, diphtheria, and rubella. Immunizations are just as important for adults. Depending on your age and other risk factors, common adult immunizations protect against the flu, Tdap, HPV, meningitis, and shingles.
Tips for Talking About Immunizations
1. Share Reputable Sources of Information
Knowing that there is misinformation about vaccines, healthcare professionals can help set the record straight by sharing information from reputable sources. When you come across an article that contains data-driven, peer-reviewed information about vaccine efficacy and safety, don’t keep it to yourself. Save them and share with others.
2. Educate Yourself Further
Nurses and other healthcare providers are widely accepted as the most trusted source for vaccine information. The CDC recommends Continuing Education Course WD4272: How Nurses and Medical Assistants Can Foster a Culture of Immunization. This CE activity will provide clinicians with communication strategies to promote vaccinations and how to address the most frequently asked questions.
3. Provide Emotional Support
Healthcare providers are being approached about vaccines because people have questions or concerns. It is vital to acknowledge their uncertainty without hesitation or judgment. Providers can help ease their fears by relating with their own experiences regarding immunizations.
4. Be Honest About the Risks
It would be disingenuous to ignore information about potential risks with immunizations. Age, pregnancy, allergies, or being immunocompromised can pose risks with certain vaccines. However small they may be, they still exist, and you should mention the possibility of side effects. For example, with the COVID-19 vaccines, patients may experience muscle soreness and fever.
5. Talk About Protecting Others
Everyone has an internal motivation to protect their family and loved ones. Highlight how getting vaccinated protect the individual and everyone around them. Frame the conversation as a small act that will have a far-reaching impact on those you love.
6. Learn Strategies from Your Peers
There is an entire video series on how to recommend vaccinations from multiple clinicians' perspectives. These brief videos explain the importance of vaccines, addressing questions, vaccine efficacy, and talking points you can use when discussing vaccines throughout a patient’s lifecycle. From childhood vaccines to flu, maternal, adolescent, and adult immunizations, this series is invaluable in helping you prepare for vaccine-related conversations.
As trusted healthcare professionals, it is critically important to provide information and guidance to help achieve the greatest protection for ourselves and others. Hopefully, as immunization awareness comes to a close at the end of the month, the U.S. will be far beyond the goal of having over 70% of our population fully immunized against COVID-19. In the meantime, Supplemental Health Care's team will be staying informed regarding news about COVID-19 vaccines and variants.