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Nurses Role in Immunization Safety and Awareness

Recent surveys conclude that more than 74% of parents trust the immunization advice given to them by pediatric health care professionals. Being on the front line of communication and care for the patient, nurses play a key role in providing that advice and helping guide parental decisions about their child’s vaccinations...
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National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is celebrated every year throughout the month of August.  NIAM events are an opportunity to highlight the positive effects of immunization and encourage people to protect themselves against infectious diseases by staying current with their immunizations.  As immunization awareness takes center stage throughout the month and parents are preparing their children for a return to school, let’s take a look at the critical role that Nurses play in the process.

Communication.  Recent surveys conclude that more than 74% of parents trust the immunization advice given to them by pediatric health care professionals.  Being on the front line of communication and care for the patient, nurses play a key role in providing that advice and helping guide parental decisions about their child’s vaccinations.  It is important for nursing professionals to keep themselves well-informed about current immunization news, safety issues, and recent data supporting the benefits of maintaining vaccination schedules.

Inevitably, Nurses are faced with questions from concerned parents about the efficacy and safety of immunizations.  When handling these situations, it is critical to have first-hand knowledge from fact-based sources.  One resource that will help in this regard is the reports found through the Institute of Medicine’s Safety Review Reports.  This is not to say that your response should be a litany of facts and data.  The type of question you receive should determine the level of detail necessary in your response.  Another valuable resource for vaccine safety information and having quality, informative conversations with parents can be found through a collaborative effort from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), called Provider Resources for Vaccine Conversations with Parents.

Safety.  Another key role for nursing professionals regarding immunizations is that of safe handling and administration.  Proper storage procedures play a key role in maintaining the efficacy of vaccines.  Adherence to storage temperatures and expiration dates must be followed.  It is also important for nurses to stay apprised of information regarding the administration of vaccines.  To avoid any potential negative reaction to a vaccine, attention must be paid to the need for administration via an intramuscular route versus a subcutaneous route, etc.

Another precaution that is critical to the immunization process is appropriate screening for contraindications, such as a history of egg allergy and the flu vaccine.  Stay informed via the CDC Guide to Contraindications to Vaccinations.

Follow-Up.  Any nurse responsible for the administration of vaccines should be well-versed in the recognition of and management of anaphylaxis.  In today’s hectic clinical environment, it may be tempting to allow efficiency and volume to impact recommended vaccination administration.  This level of efficiency can pose problems for the patient receiving the vaccination.  The CDC advises that the patient should be observed for at least 15 minutes after vaccination.

Throughout the month of August, make it a point to review your facilities Vaccination Administration protocols and ensure that everything is up to date and accurate.  Take advantage of the variety of communication tools that are available to help promote Immunization Awareness through the CDC and NIAM.  From Infants and Children through Adulthood, vaccinations are a key component of eliminating the risk of infectious diseases.  Take an opportunity this August to do your part in the awareness effort.