More than 20% of patients are behind on routine vaccinations! In addition to all of the other challenges COVID-19 has brought us this past year, the CDC has reported a significant drop in vaccination rates. We now have the responsibility to try to catch these patients up on their routine vaccines!
Complicating this a bit for our adolescent patients, is the COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer-Biontech vaccine has been approved for patients 16 and older and on March 31, 2021, Pfizer-Biontech announced their positive study results of their COVID-19 vaccine in 12-15 year old participants.
This data will be submitted to the FDA in an effort to obtain an Emergency Use Authorization to give the Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 vaccine to students 12-15 years old in the United States. While we anticipate this authorization is still a few months away, we do know they would like to start vaccinating these patients prior to this next school year.
However, we also need to get these patients caught up on their other routine vaccinations. Because they cannot be vaccinated 14 days before receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or 14 days after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, it is critical we get as many patients under the age of 16 into our offices to get caught up on their vaccinations as soon as possible. Patients 16 and older also need to be caught up and scheduled but this should be done with their COVID-19 vaccination plan in mind. You and your staff will have to explain to parents the importance of getting them in for catch up and back to school shots now instead of waiting until summer like many parents do.
It is vital for all of us to step up our efforts and take every opportunity to vaccinate these patients with their regular vaccines as soon as we can.Please review your office policies and procedures to see what changes you can make to better vaccinate your patients. Here is a great resource from Merck Vaccines with suggestions about how your office can help improve your adolescent/pediatric vaccination program. Some of these ideas are:
- Make sure nurses can administer vaccines by independently screening patients and administering vaccines under preexisting signed physician’s orders.
- Use every office visit – sick and well – to review a patient’s immunization status and get them caught up.
- Run queries using your EMR to find patients who are behind on well visits and vaccinations then proactively call them to schedule a time to come in for these visits.
- Provide opportunities for patients to walk in during office hours for a “nurse only” visit to be vaccinated.
Please take the time to review these and other suggestions in the handout from Merck. Even if your office has a great program in place there may be one or two suggestions that can help you increase your vaccination efforts.
I have also included a copy of the letter from the CDC for your reference. Please make sure to share this blog post and the resources included to those who need it in your office. This is a great topic for staff and department meetings. Doctors need to work hard to make sure all staff members understand the importance of vaccinating and catching up patients on their vaccination at every office visit. Any proactive calling and scheduling patients to come in that you can do will help this significantly! Share what is working for your office! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.