Rates of vaccine-preventable diseases have decreased significantly in the last century with the development of safe and effective vaccines. Diseases like whooping cough and diphtheria used to kill thousands of people each year, but many doctors today have never even seen a case. The United States is also on its way to reaching 80% standard vaccine series coverage for children 19 to 35 months with coverage rates increasing from 44.3% in 2009 to 68.4% in 2012. To capitalize on this success and keep the momentum going, your local health department can promote the importance of vaccines during National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) in August.
NIAM is a great way to promote the importance of vaccines for all ages in your community. It’s the perfect time to increase awareness about the benefits of vaccination as it coincides with back to school appointments, sports physicals, and the beginning of flu season when many community members will be interacting with their providers. Further, the awareness month offers an opportunity to recognize those in your community who work tirelessly all year long to increase vaccination rates.
The National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) offers sample messages and campaign materials to increase vaccination rates for infants, children, teens, pregnant women, and adults, and each week in August will focus on a different age group:
- Preteens and Teens (Aug. 2-8)
- Pregnant Women (Aug. 9-15)
- Adults (Aug. 16-22)
- Infants and Children (Aug. 23-29)
In the past, local health departments in California have conducted school and provider outreach, asking schools to distribute flyers and post information on school websites, and encouraging providers to host vaccination clinics and use every visit as an opportunity to vaccinate. In 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Health created a toolkit with suggested activities, talking points, messaging, and sample promotional materials for local health departments. Check with your state health department for helpful resources and to coordinate activities.
Local health departments can do a variety of things to promote the importance of immunizations such as adding NIAM materials and reminders to immunization and provider newsletters, using social media to reach community members through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, posting NIAM information on the health department website, and hosting a community event to answer questions about vaccinations. The CDC’s and NPHIC’s websites have tools such as web banners, flyers, sample tweets, and newsletters that can be used directly or adapted to a local community.
Flu season is also coming up, so use this month as an opportunity to encourage everyone, especially those in high-risk groups such as pregnant women and the elderly, to get vaccinated to prevent the flu. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
Vaccinations can save lives, prevent severe morbidity and lower healthcare costs, so take advantage of NIAM and spread the word. You can find additional information about National Immunization Awareness Month as well as toolkits and other resources at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam.html and https://www.nphic.org/niam.