Vaccine Advocacy from All Physicians is Vital
Every month is “Something” Month; August is no exception. Some of the more delicious include “National Sandwich Month” and “National Goat Cheese Month.” It also seeks to raise awareness for motorsports and romance. Health related observances include children’s eye health and spinal muscular atrophy.
Importantly, August is also National Immunization Awareness Month. As a Pediatrician, childhood vaccinations are a critical aspect of healthcare we oversee. They’re meant to prevent disease and are responsible for eradicating it (so long small pox!) Like much of what we cover in Pediatrics, it’s about prevention. And, physicians know better than most that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” For children in the US born in 2009, vaccines are estimated to prevent 42,000 early deaths, 20 million cases of disease, $13.5 billion dollars in direct healthcare costs, and $68.8 billion in indirect societal costs.
All physicians should feel empowered to recommend immunizations. They aren’t just the realm of primary care providers (whether pediatric and/or adult.) In one study, 80% of parents reported that their choice to vaccinate their children was influenced by a recommendation from their PCP. I can’t think of a compelling reason to think recommendations from surgeons, specialists, and acute care physicians wouldn’t be equally influential. In fact, non-PCPs have clinical experiences that we generalists don’t. Perhaps you’re an ENT who has operated on head and neck cancer caused by HPV. OB/GYNs have been battling it for decades. Maybe you’re an ED doc who intubated a previously healthy patient who experienced respiratory failure from influenza (or the intensivist who took over from there.) We all have unique experiences to share from which our patients can profit. If we’re able to achieve vaccination rates that reach herd immunity (≥95%,) all of Central Ohio would benefit.
We live in a post-truth society where even the shape of the earth is questioned. Anti-vaccine advocates have an outsized voice in Ohio; they call, write to, and meet with our elected leaders frequently. Ohio currently allows for religious and philosophical (or as I call it, “whatever reason you want to”) exemptions from vaccines. These non-medical exemptions absolutely affect our ability to protect the community at large. Vaccine advocacy from physicians, still a trusted group in society, is vital.
While your August may be devoted to be eating sandwiches with goat cheese and appreciating your ATV, remember it’s also a good time to recommit to recommending and advocating for one of the greatest public health achievements in human history: vaccines.