You've Got Mail

AAFP Immunization Resources Keep FPs Informed

May 15, 2017 03:20 pm Chris Crawford

Check your mailbox; the AAFP has sent new immunization resources to all active and resident members.

[Doctor giving young woman immunization in arm]

On May 12, the Academy mailed family physicians full-color laminated copies of the 2017 adult, childhood/adolescent and catch-up immunization schedules developed by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) with help from the AAFP, as well as other medical specialty groups. Specific guidance on talking with parents about immunizing their infants also was included in the mailing.

Additionally, members can access the immunization schedules for children, adolescents and adults on the AAFP mobile app.

These immunization materials are intended to keep FPs and their patients on top of the latest vaccine-related information and joint recommendations from the ACIP, AAFP and other medical specialty organizations. Funding to print and mail the immunization schedules and other resources was provided by a grant from Merck & Co. Inc.

Story highlights
  • On May 12, the AAFP mailed family physicians full-color laminated copies of the 2017 adult, childhood/adolescent and catch-up immunization schedules.
  • Specific guidance on talking with parents about immunizing their infants also was included in the mailing.
  • Funding to print and mail the immunization schedules and other resources was provided by a grant from Merck & Co. Inc.

Jennifer Frost, M.D., medical director for the AAFP Health of the Public and Science Division, told AAFP News that vaccine-preventable illnesses have become so uncommon that many patients no longer appreciate the value of vaccines.

"And if their value isn't appreciated, it's a lot easier to listen to those who promote false information," Frost noted. "As physicians, it's our job to inform our patients of the facts, and this includes the life-saving value and overall safety of immunizations."

Take, for example, the recent outbreak of measles in Minnesota,(www.statnews.com) where the majority of cases occurred in Somali populations that were unvaccinated because of concerns that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine might cause autism.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH),(www.health.state.mn.us) 58 confirmed cases were reported from April 11 to May 15, with state health officials expecting more incidents. Of these case reports, 49 involved Somali patients.

A May 4 news release(www.health.state.mn.us) from the health department said most of the exposures occurred in child care, health care or household settings. To date, more than 2,500 people have been exposed.

Referencing the unvaccinated Somali communities involved in the outbreak, said Kris Ehresmann, R.N., M.P.H., director of MDH's Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention and Control Division, in the news release: "Once measles begins to spread in unvaccinated populations, it can be very difficult to stop. We would not be surprised if we saw additional cases in other parts of the state where there are clusters of unvaccinated people before this is over."

In response to the outbreak, MDH officials recommended children ages 12 months and older who have not received an MMR vaccine should get the first dose as soon as possible. The MMR vaccine is given to children in two doses, typically at 12 months and between ages 4-6. The department also recommended that adults born in 1957 or later who have never received the MMR vaccine and have never had measles should get the vaccine as soon as possible.

Another immunization area of particular concern, according to Frost, is the continued low rate of HPV vaccine uptake. She said a big reason for the shortfall is how physicians recommend the HPV vaccine to patients and their parents.

"Research has shown that clinicians discuss the HPV vaccine differently than other recommended vaccines," said Frost. "But this shouldn't be the case. The HPV vaccine effectively protects against a virus that causes cancer. That should be the central message to our patients."

And although it's important to discuss sexual activity, sexually transmitted infection (STI) risk, STI prevention and contraception, Frost said these conversations need to take place separately from the HPV vaccination discussion.

"It confuses the message and makes it about sex rather than cancer prevention," she explained.

Overall, Frost said vaccinations are extremely valuable, but she acknowledged that the ever-changing vaccine schedule can be burdensome.

And that's precisely why the Academy goes to such lengths to ensure members have ready access to the latest schedules.

"To help with this burden, the AAFP sends laminated schedules, posts the schedules online and has the schedules in the AAFP app, giving members multiple means of access," she said.

Related AAFP News Coverage
CDC: HPV Infection Rates Remain High in Both Men, Women
(4/18/2017)

CDC, AAFP Release 2017 Immunization Schedules
Updates Include New HPV, MenB and HepB Vaccine Recommendations

(2/6/2017)