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August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), encouraging the importance of vaccines for people of all ages. NIAM collaborates with the CDC to assist in the communication regarding vaccines for various audiences; this week, August 7-13, the focus is pregnant women. To learn more, visit the NIAM website.

Stocking and administering vaccines in the office may not be feasible for all prenatal healthcare professionals, often due to issues with reimbursement. By making a strong vaccine referral, providers can help ensure that all patients, including pregnant patients, receive the recommended influenza (flu) and tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccines even if they are unable to administer them in the office. Providers can follow a strategy outlined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that has been based on research with healthcare professionals and pregnant women. The goal is to strengthen vaccine referrals to increase the likelihood of the patient to follow through.

  1. Begin each referral with a vaccine recommendation that includes information on why the vaccine is beneficial and safe for mother and baby. Tailoring the message with scientific data or personal anecdotes may help convey the vaccine’s importance to individual patients.
  2. Provide information on where patients can get the recommended vaccine(s). For help locating vaccines, the HealthMap Vaccine Finder is available at: healthmap.org
  3. Always write a patient-specific prescription. This will help the patient obtain the vaccine at another location where a prescription may be required.
  4. Anticipate questions on why patients cannot get vaccinated in the office. For example, if your office stocks the flu vaccine, but not Tdap, be prepared to explain why only one vaccine is offered but not the other.
  5. Re-emphasize vaccine importance. Remember to emphasize the fact that even though the specific vaccine is not immediately available, it does not mean it is not important, or is less important than other vaccines that are immediately available (in stock), or that there are concerns about its safety.
  6. Have a plan in place to answer questions from other immunization providers who are concerned with vaccinating their pregnant patients. Questions should be answered promptly, as it is likely the patient is with them at the time they contact you.

Vaccines recommended for pregnant women should be discussed with patients early in pregnancy, with the formal referral made during the recommended time frame for administration.

For the flu vaccine, referrals should be made as early as possible once pregnancy is confirmed. Pregnant women can be vaccinated during any trimester, keeping in mind that the flu vaccine is typically available August to May, covering the duration of the flu season.

For the Tdap vaccine, referrals should be made as close to 27 weeks as possible so there is ample time during the recommendation window (27-36 weeks gestation) to follow up and re-emphasize the importance of getting the Tdap vaccine, if the patient has not yet received it.

After every referral, you should follow-up with each patient during subsequent appointments to ensure the patient received the vaccine(s). It may be helpful to include a reminder in your electronic medical records (EMR).

Additional resources from the CDC are available to help make the vaccine recommendation and referral as effective as possible.

Great Plains QIN is actively working with providers, patients, partners and stakeholders to implement best practices to increase immunization rates for influenza, pneumococcal disease and herpes zoster. Together, we play an important role in helping to educate patients about immunization recommendations. Review our website to learn more, get connected by joining the Learning and Action Network and access resources and tools.

We will continue to share and promote resources and learning opportunities throughout the month of August.


Upcoming Educational Opportunity

Give “Just” the Vaccine
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. CT

Speakers:
Dr. Maureen Tierney, MD, MSc – Director of the Healthcare Associated Infections Program, Epidemiology and Informatics Unit of the Nebraska Division of Public Health
Peg Gilbert, RN, MS, CIC, FAPIC – Quality IC, LLC

Continuing Education (CE)
1.0 hour of Continuing Education credit has been approved by the North Dakota Board of Nursing; Course #1508

Pre-registration is required and all attendees must register.

  1. Click register
  2. Enter requested information
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*Save your confirmation email, this will include the meeting call-in information, password and the registration ID.
Materials and log-in details will be sent to all registrants 1-2 days prior to the WebEx.