Everything You Need To Know About Immunizations
Aug. 13, 2015
It’s National Immunization Month, and you want to make sure you’ve got all the information you need to encourage your community to get their shots and stay healthy. Below, we’ll discuss some of the most important concepts regarding vaccination. As a health care professional, you are in a unique position to help explain them to your community.
THE ROLE VACCINES PLAY IN MODERN SOCIETY
Health care professionals already understand how important vaccinations are, yet many individuals lack the medical training that fosters this sense of awareness. They may need explanations about why vaccines are so important, especially to children and the elderly whose immune systems aren’t as strong.
The concept of community immunity, also known as “herd immunity,” is a critical one here; it says that even in a mostly vaccinated population, some people still won’t be immune. However, when most of the population is vaccinated, there’s a much smaller chance that a contagious disease will get to those individuals, causing disability or death. When population vaccination falls below a critical level, though, the population is no longer safe. Thisillustration may prove helpful in explaining this concept to patients doubtful of vaccination.
ALL VACCINES ARE DIFFERENT
All vaccines are indeed different. Consider:
- Different vaccines may need to be administered at different ages
- Different vaccines may need more or fewer doses
- Different vaccines may have higher or lower rates of effectiveness compared to other vaccines
- Different vaccines are more or less important in different populations (by age, location or other metrics)
Whether you are a medical assistant, dental hygienist, nurse or a radiologic technician, when you work in health care, the subject of immunizations is sure to come up frequently and passionately. Remember your Concorde training and how some of these concepts may not be obvious to all of your patients. It may be helpful to kindly explain what they need for their own health and their children’s. If you’re not sure how to communicate most effectively to your wide variety of patients, consider using the National Public Health Information Coalition’s immunization toolkit, or their simpler school-age toolkit for kids preschool to college age.
UNDERSTAND AGE DIFFERENCES AND VACCINATION TIMING
Speaking of age, it would be wonderful if all vaccines worked equally well at all stages of life, but this isn’t the case. Vaccines must be administered differently for different age groups, pose varying risks depending on condition (for instance, pregnancy or disability), and often need to be frontloaded (as in the case of infants and children, who should receive vaccines in regular doses early on).
Most parents understand that they should get their children immunized, but don’t know which vaccinations they need when, which is why it’s helpful to have schedules to refer to. Even those parents who are on top of their kids’ immunization schedules often aren’t as aware of their own (i.e. the TDAP, which must be renewed every 10 years).
Keeping all your patients informed and vaccinated is a challenge, especially in the face of some public resistance, but take national immunization awareness month as an opportunity to meet that challenge. If you need more information, head to the Centers for Disease Control’s immunization page.