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A little over a decade ago, vaccine coverage across the world plateaued. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), immunizations stalled despite being “one of the most successful public health interventions.” This was further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought about various disruptions in vaccine production, distribution and in-person patient visits. After years of relative stagnation, the number of children who missed out on any kind of vaccination ballooned from 12.9 million to 18.1 million from 2019 to 2021.
Thankfully, the tide is turning. The number of children who did not receive a single vaccine lowered to 14.3 million in 2022, compared to 18.1 million just the year prior. With numbers nearing pre-pandemic levels, now is the perfect time for nurse practitioners (NPs) to encourage vaccinations to keep patients healthy across their entire lifespan. Together with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP), NPs have the continuing education (CE), tools and resources they need to improve vaccination coverage in their patients’ communities.
“Infants and children need to get vaccinated to prevent diseases like hepatitis, measles and pertussis. Though most children get recommended vaccines, some U.S. communities have low vaccination coverage that puts them at risk for outbreaks,” says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Unfortunately, disruptions to health care services during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in declines in outpatient pediatric visits. Patients and their families were hesitant to step into their NP’s office for risk of COVID-19 exposure. This issue was further compounded by vaccine hesitancy and misinformation, which swelled around the COVID-19 virus. Fewer vaccine doses were administered as many children missed their well-child visits and recommended vaccinations.
In order to help you stay up to date on vaccination guidelines, AANP has launched a new course entitled “Immunizations: Getting Your Families Ready for the School Year” in the AANP CE Center. Part of the new Course of the Month program, this activity is free to members throughout the month of August and covers current recommendations for school attendance based on the 2023 vaccine schedule, as well as the most recent recommendations for the COVID-19 vaccine. If you’re facing challenges related to vaccine education, enroll in “Pediatric Vaccine Concerns: A Warm Approach for Cold Feet” to explore effective strategies to respond to parental vaccine hesitancy in your practice.
In addition to vaccinating children in time for the new school year, it’s important that patients keep up with their recommended vaccinations into adolescence and well into adulthood. Per the HHS, “Adolescents, adults and older adults also need vaccines. For example, adolescents need the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, older adults need vaccines to help prevent pneumonia and almost everyone age six months and older needs a yearly flu vaccine.”
Unfortunately, trends in adult vaccinations — especially those relating to the flu vaccine — have yet to recover from pre-pandemic levels. Less than half the U.S. population received their influenza vaccine in 2020-2021, a decrease from prior years. Other vaccine-preventable diseases, such as pneumococcal disease, result in thousands of deaths and more than 100,000 hospitalizations every year. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans will develop herpes zoster, or shingles, in their lifetime, and an estimated one million cases occur annually in the U.S. You can help protect patients in your community from these vaccine-preventable diseases with the latest guidance, strategies and resources from your NP organization.
Do you want to earn more free CE credit and gain the tools to protect your patients from the second most common cause of vaccine-preventable disease? Continue your immunization awareness journey by enrolling in the recently added course, “Pneumococcal Vaccination Across the Lifespan,” in the AANP CE Center. Complete this activity to earn 1 CH of CE credit (0.5 of which may be applied toward pharmacology).