National Immunization Awareness Month
National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. Improving the health of populations is part of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s “Triple Aim” of healthcare, and Immunisation is an easy way to keep the nation healthy by preventing the spread of communicable diseases.
Certain vaccination-preventable diseases have seen a marked increase in the US recently. On May 30th this year (2019) the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the incidence of measles was at it’s highest level for the last 25 years. At the end of May 2019 there has been 971 cases of measles in the US, whereas in 1994 there were 963 cases were reported for the entire year. The US had earned “eliminated” status for measles in the year 2000 when the incidence was just 85 cases (down from 27,786 in 1990). If the current outbreak continues at this pace the US will lose it’s measles “eliminated” status.
There are certain factors that affect the uptake of vaccinations in the US, including cost, access to services and personal preference and opinion. Vaccinations are free for children who are uninsured or who are insured through Medicaid, however the CDC have noted a lower uptake in this group when looking at children who were 19 – 35 months old. Other children and adults will need to be insured or pay privately for their immunizations and this may prevent people doing so. The CDC also noted a lower rate of immunization uptake for children who lived in rural locations, meaning that accessibility of services, and even practitioner shortage, is likely to be having a negative effect. Some people also believe that vaccines are dangerous and can lead to the development of other conditions (for example autism) and therefore make choices not to have their children vaccinated. In some states parents are able to make their children exempt from school age vaccinations for non-medical reasons. Other states do not allow this, and there is an increase in uptake of immunizations in these areas.
As a nurse in the US you may nurse patients of all ages. Part of the care that you provide may involve educating patients or their parents/guardians about the benefits of various vaccination, depending on the age of the patient. You should have an understanding of the vaccination needs by age. The CDC has created an interactive immunization guide for patients and their carers from birth to adulthood. It includes information on the diseases that each vaccine protects against, as well as the recommended schedule of each vaccine. If you have not familiar with the vaccination schedule for US residents it is very useful for healthcare professionals too. You can find the guide here: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/growing/index.html
The CDC website also has some CE accredited courses and webcasts where healthcare professionals can learn much more about vaccinations. Go to: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/ed/courses.html