August 16, 2021, 1:35 p.m. News Staff — August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and as the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 spreads across the country, it’s a reminder of how important vaccines are to protecting community health. To support members on this critical issue, the Academy offers extensive immunization-related resources at AAFP.org.
The Academy’s Immunizations & Vaccines webpage provides members with the latest information on vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, and gives updates on how FPs are addressing questions and concerns around vaccines in their communities. It currently offers the 2021 immunization schedules, recommendations from the Academy on influenza vaccine administration, toolkits and much more.
The AAFP’s COVID-19 Vaccine webpage keeps members apprised of the latest developments related to COVID-19 vaccines, and links to resources from the CDC and the FDA. The page contains several family-medicine specific resources, including a list of vaccine FAQs and information to address vaccine myths, and is updated routinely with the newest information.
While COVID-19 has grabbed much of the spotlight, it’s important to remember that influenza remains a significant public health concern. With influenza season approaching, members are invited to visit the AAFP’s Seasonal Influenza Prevention & Control webpage, which features the latest clinical recommendations on influenza vaccination, along with new information from the CDC. The CDC has advised that co-administration of the COVID-19 vaccine with other vaccines is allowed, which may provide additional opportunities for patients to get vaccinated against influenza and COVID-19.
And as the start of the new school year approaches, members should make sure to check out the Academy’s Caring for School-Aged Patients webpage to help these patients stay safe and healthy. Ensuring that patients are up to date with their immunizations is especially important this year, as data show that the pandemic has caused many people to avoid or delay preventive care.
In July, the Academy (through a cooperative agreement with the CDC) debuted an extensive CME program designed to increase adult immunization rates in African American communities. The program is available to family physicians and other clinicians free of charge, and allows participants to earn up to 21 CME credits.
Throughout the year, the AAFP has also hosted a series of virtual town halls and webinars on COVID-19, many of which have discussed the use of COVID-19 vaccines. These products are available on the Academy’s Coronavirus CME webpage.
The Academy has reached out to the federal government numerous times in 2021, often by submitting letters or providing written testimony on immunization-related issues to congressional leaders.
In March, for example, the Academy sent a letter to Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chair and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, asking, among other things, that Congress support and recognize the efforts of primary care physicians in ensuring equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution and reducing disparities in vaccination rates.
The AAFP has also published several statements this year that recognize the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine being authorized for children ages 12 to 15, promote the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination in preventing severe illness, support COVID-19 vaccine mandates for health care and long-term care employees, and encourage discussion of COVID-19 vaccination as part of an annual sports physical.
The Academy’s longstanding Immunizations policy also details the AAFP’s stances on a number of related issues, including access, cost, coverage and payment.
In February, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (along with the AAFP and several other medical organizations) released the 2021 adult and childhood immunization schedules.
At the end of April, thanks to a grant from Merck & Co. Inc., the Academy began mailing laminated, full-color copies of the schedules to members. Those who haven’t received their copies by now should email the Academy or call (800) 274-2237 for assistance.
Downloadable copies of the adult, childhood and catch-up schedules also are available on the Academy’s Immunizations Schedules webpage.
Finally, the Academy offers articles that FPs can refer patients to at familydoctor.org. These resources cover the latest immunization schedules, explain the importance of childhood vaccines, and discuss the role of immunizations within the larger framework of preventive care. There are also several COVID-19 vaccine articles that can be helpful in conversations with patients, including “Debunking Common COVID-19 Vaccine Myths.”