Guest Editorial

Wealth of Resources Available to Help Boost Vaccination Rates

August 15, 2017 12:05 pm Margot Savoy, M.D., M.P.H.

Margot Savoy, M.D., M.P.H.

I believe in immunizations. I am up-to-date on my immunizations, and I make sure my family stays up-to-date on their immunizations. 

I strongly recommend vaccines to my patients and friends because they, too, are a part of my family. I am proud to be a family physician because we don't back down from supporting evidence-based, effective ways to save our patients, and that includes immunizations.

Earlier this year, reports came out that the new administration would form a "vaccine safety" panel that would be led by a noted vaccine skeptic. AAFP President John Meigs, M.D., didn't hesitate. He stated unequivocally, "Vaccines are safe, effective and they save lives."  

The AAFP supports vaccines, vaccine science and disease prevention year-round, but the emphasis is even greater in August, which is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). This annual observance highlights the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. NIAM was established to encourage people to make sure they are up-to-date on the vaccines recommended for them, and each week highlights the importance of vaccinating a different group.

Tools for Family Physicians

A range of resources is available to help family physicians learn more about vaccines, from apps and websites to social media campaigns and articles. Here are just a few:

  • AAFP.org: The Academy's website offers general vaccine information, policies on immunization and immunization exemptions, recommendations about specific vaccines, practical information about immunization registries and more.
  • American Family Physician: AFP is the go-to resource for evidence-based review articles on the full spectrum of care, and vaccines are no exception. Summaries of the annual updates to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) immunization schedules, along with the revised schedules, are published every February. You can find these and a host of other well-written articles in the AFP by Topic collections on immunizations and influenza.
  • AAFP and AAFP Foundation videos: This past year, both the AAFP and the AAFP Foundation launched videos to help family doctors talk with patients about vaccines. AAFP adult immunization videos focusing on influenza, zoster and pneumococcal vaccines demonstrate techniques for educating patients through reflective listening, increasing patient knowledge, supporting patient autonomy and making a strong recommendation. The Foundation has created a resource library(www.aafpfoundation.org) with videos and other tools to support vaccinating teens.
  • Shots app: A new version of the popular Shots mobile app will soon be released as a joint venture of the AAFP and the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. The free app will contain key point-of-care information about immunizations schedules, contraindications and resources.

Additional Resources

  • CDC: Family physicians are well represented within the CDC, and the AAFP is a frequent partner and collaborator on projects and guidelines. We provide valuable insight to nation's vaccine policy through prominent roles with the ACIP. The CDC's website has resources(www.cdc.gov) for health care professionals and patients/families.
  • Immunization Action Coalition: Family physician Deborah Wexler, M.D., leads the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), which works to increase immunization rates and prevent disease by creating and distributing educational materials for health professionals and the public. The AAFP is a member of the IAC's Advisory Board and partners with the organization to ensure resources are beneficial to practicing family physicians. IAC's website(www.immunize.org) contains a variety of information, including FAQs by vaccine experts, standing order sets and vaccine information sheets. A key resource is the popular newsletter Needle Tips(www.immunize.org), which provides updates and key highlights for clinicians.
  • National HPV Vaccination Roundtable: The AAFP is a founding steering committee member and leader in this coalition of like-minded organizations seeking to improve HPV vaccination rates. The roundtable's website(www.cancer.org) includes a resource library clinicians can use to educate fellow health care professionals and patients and improve their vaccination rates.

Helping Patients Understand

Helping family physicians master positive conversations with patients and parents about vaccination and vaccine decisions is critical. On Aug. 25 at noon ET, I will be one of the speakers during the free CDC webinar Getting Parents to Yes! Vaccine Conversations That Work for Providers & Parents(register.gotowebinar.com). I will share best practices for engaging patients and parents in these crucial conversations, along with pediatricians Sharon Humiston, M.D., M.P.H., and Nathan Boonstra, M.D.

The Health is Primary campaign from Family Medicine for America's Health(fmahealth.org) also has free resources on basic vaccine information and safety(www.healthisprimary.org).

Finally, other resources that may be helpful for family physicians include


A Final Word

Feel confident that vaccines are safe, and that vaccines save lives. Review and strongly recommend appropriate vaccinations for everyone in your practice. Educate yourself and your patients using whatever tool they prefer -- handouts, videos, conversations or personal stories. And join in the conversation on social media by following @AAFP on Twitter(twitter.com) and by using the hashtag #NIAM17(twitter.com).

Margot Savoy, M.D., M.P.H., is medical director of the Christiana Care Health System Department of Family and Community Medicine and the AAFP liaison to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.