August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), an annual observance of the importance of vaccinations — which are especially critical during the busy back-to-school period and before the onset of flu season. But as a healthcare professional, you know it’s crucial to cultivate recognition for the value of immunizations all year round.
From dispelling misinformation and helping reduce needle anxiety to ensuring you’re well protected against vaccine-preventable diseases in the workplace, you have a significant responsibility in shaping how patients and fellow healthcare professionals address immunizations.
Here are three ways you can foster greater vaccination awareness all year round:
1. Educate Your Patients
Unfortunately, the internet is filled with misinformation about vaccines — specifically when it comes to vaccinating children against potentially deadly diseases like measles and polio. Parents want to do what’s best for their children, and when they hear vaccines may be linked to unpleasant side-effects and other conditions, they may feel apprehensive about immunizations.
Unfortunately, when people begin choosing not to vaccinate their children, diseases that were nearly eradicated in our country (like measles) can return.
As a healthcare professional, it’s up to you to help educate patients of all ages, as well as parents, on the importance of vaccinations, how immunizations work and the potential consequences of choosing not to vaccinate a child. Here are a few key talking points to aid in these conversations:
Vaccinations and Immunity
- Immunizations strengthen the immune system (in fact, it’s even in the name.) By introducing a small, safe amount of a pathogen to a patient’s system, their body’s natural defenses learn how to fight off the invading bacteria or virus. This helps protect patients when and if they’re exposed to the disease.
Skipping or Delaying Vaccinations
- There are no known benefits of choosing to skip or delay vaccines. In fact, patients who don’t adhere to vaccination schedules risk unprotected exposure to disease. Additionally, delaying can even lead to an increased risk of fever or febrile seizure after receiving the MMR shot, according to information shared by Scientific American.
- Vaccines contain a few ingredients to make sure they’re safe and effective. These ingredients include adjuvants (to help boost the body’s response), stabilizers (to help ensure the vaccine remains effective after its manufactured) and formaldehyde (to prevent contamination by bacteria during the vaccination), according to the CDC. Additionally, vaccines are subject to extensive lab testing to ensure patients’ safety.
While some sources claim vaccine ingredients are unsafe, it’s important patients seek credible sources.
2. Improve Your Patient Comfort Process
Many patients put off immunizations because they struggle with needle phobia or anxiety. One of the best ways to help ease patient fears — and reduce the risk of younger patients developing needle phobia — is to make the procedure as comfortable as possible.
Fostering a culture of patient-centered care is crucial to ensuring patients make the best choices for their health and wellbeing. When it comes to vaccinations, be sure to explain the process thoroughly. Additionally, use patient comfort techniques, such as applying an instant topical anesthetic skin refrigerant to help reduce the pain associated with vaccinations.
3. Stay Current on Your Own Vaccines
As a nurse or nurse manager, it’s critical you set a good example for others by ensuring you’re always up-to-date on your vaccines. As you know, immunizations will help protect you against many communicable diseases that may otherwise spread in your healthcare facility. They also help you prevent spreading diseases to people whose immune systems aren’t as strong, such as infants, older adults and those with autoimmune diseases or cancer.
Immunization awareness is an essential part of your job as a healthcare professional. By helping educate others, dispel misinformation, build a more patient-centered culture in your healthcare facility and prevent the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases by staying immunized, you can help protect your patients and their loved ones.