by Adelita Cantu, PhD, RN, FAAN
August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). This annual observance highlights the importance of getting recommended vaccines throughout life, not just during childhood. During NIAM, public health nurses have conversations with parents and adults to ensure that everyone in the family is protected against serious diseases by getting caught up on routine vaccinations. Many people are looking for reassurance from public health nurses that vaccines are safe and effective. Nurses are the most trusted profession in the United States and as such we can leverage that trust by providing strong, clear messages and recommendations. Usually this approach is enough, but some may need or want more information. It is critical that we listen to their concerns and answer their questions to help them feel confident in choosing to get a vaccine.
Here are some tips to use when discussing the importance of staying up to date on routine vaccinations:
- Assess vaccination status during your conversation.
- Use plain language when addressing concerns about vaccine safety.
- Practice the SHARE approach to help people make informed decisions about vaccination.
- Show your support of vaccination throughout the month by displaying NIAM graphics on your website and on social media.
- Adopt an approach that assumes most parents will choose to vaccinate their children. For example, say “Your child needs these vaccines today,” instead of “What do you want to do about vaccination today?”
- Educate parents on the safety systems that the United States has in place to monitor vaccine safety. Share resources with parents to reinforce the information you provide about the safety of vaccines.
- When recommending the HPV vaccine for adolescents, it’s important to recommend the vaccine the same way and same day that you recommend other vaccines.
- Adult vaccination rates in the United States are low, and most adults are not aware that they need vaccines. Your recommendation can make a difference.
- Adults with certain health conditions like diabetes or heart disease are at greater risk for severe complications from certain vaccine-preventable diseases. Encourage adults to stay up to date on their vaccines to reduce their risk of complications.
- Even if you don’t administer vaccines, make a strong recommendation and refer adults to other vaccination providers, such as retail pharmacies. Follow up to ensure vaccination was received.
- If patients decline vaccination, consider revisiting the discussion on vaccines at a later date.
National Immunization Awareness Month, July 6, 2023 https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam/index.html
Dr. Adelita Cantu has served on the national Board of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE). She is deeply embedded in many local and state collaborations, bringing a critical health perspective to their missions and highlight the importance of social determinants to community well-being. Known for her advocacy work with underserved populations, she was sought to serve on San Antonio’s Climate Adaptation Equity Technical Working Group as well as the city’s COVID-19 Community Response and Equity Committee. Recently, she was included among the Best 25 Nurses in South Central Texas.