Adolescent immunization rates are lagging below national goals. Unity Consortium is dedicated to educating teens about the importance of immunization and the vaccines recommended specifically for their age group.
Most teens have a lot of their plate. There’s school, homework, extra-curricular activities, sports for many, part-time jobs for some and of course, the social scene – both in person and the virtual kind. So it’s understandable that health, and in particular, immunizations are not a priority for many teens and young adults. But with adolescent immunizations rates lagging below national goals, we need to do more to educate teens about the importance of immunization and the vaccines recommended specifically for their age group.
Unity Consortium is partnering with Outcome Health to reach teens at the point of care while they are visiting their doctor via credible health information that explains the critical role teen and young adult vaccination plays in disease prevention. These materials will also reach parents and healthcare providers who play a vital role in keeping teens healthy.
A recent Unity survey conducted by Harris poll sheds light on why adolescent vaccination rates remain far too low. In short, vaccination rates may be stagnant partly because of attitudes about vaccination and missed opportunities to vaccinate.
For example, the survey found that not all parents and teens realize the value of annual check-ups and vaccination. In fact, 4 in 10 parents and nearly 6 in 10 teens believe teens should only see a doctor when he/she feels sick. This belief likely reduce opportunities for physicians to discuss preventive health measures, such as vaccination, with teenagers and their parents. Similarly, the survey showed that 1 in 4 parents and teens believe that vaccines are for babies and not as important for teens and more than one-third of teens don’t know how being vaccinated helps them. By placing vaccine information in physician waiting room and exam rooms, Unity and Outcome Health hope to increase the understanding about vaccines so that these misperceptions can be addressed. The materials may also serve as a reminder to healthcare providers to check their patients’ immunization records, since less than half of the physicians surveyed reported issuing reminders to teens and their parents about needed or missed vaccinations.
The CDC recommends that adolescents receive the following vaccines to protect their health in the short and long-term.
• Meningococcal: Two distinct meningococcal disease vaccines (ACWY and B) protect against the most common types of bacterial meningitis. While most people recover from meningitis, permanent disabilities (such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities) and even death can result from the infection. Receiving both vaccines can help ensure protection from these potentially devastating infections.
• Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis [whooping cough]) and Td Booster (tetanus and diphtheria): Recently, there have been outbreaks of whooping cough in the United States.
• HPV (human papillomavirus): The vaccine is most effective at preventing HPV-associated cancers in both men and women when given during the preteen years.
• Flu: More serious than a cold, flu impacts an infected person for up to two weeks, but can also lead to serious and even deadly complications, such as pneumonia. A flu vaccination is needed annually as the flu strains change and, while there is still a low risk of catching the flu even with the shot, patients will often experience a milder case of the flu if vaccinated.
Annual checkups should be the norm, not the exception. Other ways to help to prioritize preventive health among adolescents include:
• Parents and teens: Learn more about the safety and the benefit of recommended vaccines.
o Unity Consortium has resources available about adolescent preventive health and vaccination.
o The CDC has available information on the vaccine schedule including recommended ages and catch-up opportunities.
• Immunizers: Make sure teens don’t skip annual check-ups, especially at 11-12 and 16 years of age when routine vaccines should be given.
o Set up a reminder system to alert parents and teens to make an appointment.
o When teens are in the office for any reason, discuss the need for immunizations so that there are no lingering concerns.
o To support healthcare providers, Unity Consortium has developed a program accessible on Unity4TeenVax.org that helps improve delivery of a confident, concise, and consistent recommendation for routinely recommended vaccines to adolescents.
A coordinated effort between teens, parents, and healthcare providers can positively impact preventive health decisions and raise the priority for adolescent immunization. For more information about Unity Consortium and the importance of preventive teen health strategies and vaccination visit http://www.unity4teenvax.org/.
Judy Klein is President and a Founder of Unity Consortium. UNITY brings together a wide range of organizations all with a passion for improving health through a focus on adolescent and young adult preventive healthcare and immunization. Judy has held leadership positions at Merck and Procter and Gamble and is equally engaged with community organizations. Judy has held a variety of leadership positions with Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) including on the Global and Philadelphia Boards of Directors.
The Unity survey was supported by Pfizer Inc., a member of Unity Consortium. The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll in 2016 among 506 teens aged 13-18, 515 parents of teens, and 405 primary care physicians. For complete survey methodology, please contact Unity.
UNITY Consortium is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization that brings together diverse groups that share a common and passionate interest in health with a focus on adolescent and young adult preventive healthcare and immunization. Our members represent public and private organizations, industry, academia, healthcare providers, retailers, and advocacy groups. As one strong voice, Unity Consortium addresses the unique challenges surrounding adolescent and young adult preventive healthcare and immunization.