August 12, 2019, 01:03 pm News Staff – The AAFP and six other medical and public health organizations have teamed up to publish a "Dear Colleague" open letter that encourages family physicians and other health care professionals to ensure that 16-year-old patients are seen for a well visit. During that visit, say the groups, these teens should receive vaccines recommended for them by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in its Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule for Ages 18 Years or Younger.
The Aug. 1 letter was signed by AAFP Board Chair Michael Munger, M.D., of Overland Park, Kan., along with officials from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College Health Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Pharmacists Association, Immunization Action Coalition, and Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.
The call for well visits for 16-year-olds derives partly from the results of a JAMA Pediatrics study published in January 2018, which found that although adolescent well-visit rates increased from 41% before implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to 48% after implementation, those figures remain below recommended levels.
The organizations suggest in their letter that establishing an immunization platform at age 16 would not only help ensure adherence to the recommended vaccination schedule, it also would give health care professionals an opportunity to perform age-appropriate screenings and provide guidance on important personal and public health issues, such as tobacco and alcohol use.
It's worth noting that in 2017, the child and adolescent immunization schedule underwent a significant revision, adding a stand-alone column for age 16 to specifically accommodate a recommendation that the second dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine be given at that age. Along with MenACWY vaccine, seasonal influenza vaccine and, if indicated, the meningococcal serogroup B vaccine should also be given during the same visit, say the groups.
The organizations further state in their letter that a well visit at age 16 would allow physicians to administer catch-up doses of vaccines for HPV, hepatitis A and B, varicella, and other diseases.
"Let us all work together to ensure that we provide adolescent patients the protection and guidance they need as they advance toward adulthood," the letter concludes.