Vaccines Are Not Just for Babies

UNITYTo highlight the importance of immunization across the lifespan, NFID is hosting a 2017 National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) blog relay, featuring a weekly guest post from an immunization champion/organization. Each week of #NIAM17 focuses on a different stage of the lifespan.

Special thanks to the Unity Consortium, an organization that brings together diverse groups with a common interest in adolescent and young adult health with a focus on prevention and immunization, for this guest blog post on their recent teen vaccine survey results. NFID is a founding member of the Unity Consortium.

Unity recently released the results of a national survey of parents of teens, teens, and healthcare providers underscoring that misperceptions about preventive health and vaccines may contribute to under-vaccination of teens. While a vast majority of parents (92%) and teens (88%) believe it is important for all teens to be vaccinated, in reality teen vaccination rates are lower than they should be. For instance, less than 50% of male teens and 65% of female teens have received the first dose of the HPV vaccine. These attitudes reported in the survey findings may keep parents and teens from prioritizing vaccination:

  • Approximately 1 in 4 parents and teens (23% each) believe that vaccines are for babies and not as important for teens
  • More than one-third of teens (34%) don’t know how being vaccinated helps them
  • Four in 10 parents (41%) and 58% of teens believe teens should only see a doctor when they feel sick, reducing opportunities to discuss preventive health measures such as vaccination
  • While most teens (92%) trust their doctor when seeking information about their health, nearly half (47%) agree they do not like talking to doctors or other healthcare providers

Unfortunately, the survey showed that nearly 60% of parents and teens continue to have safety concerns about vaccines (and have read about safety concerns on social media), even though science and research have validated the safety and overwhelming benefit of vaccines.

“While the vast majority of parents believe that teens want to shoulder more responsibility for their health, only half of doctors agree that teens want to be accountable,” said Paul A. Offit, MD, Director of the Vaccine Education Center and physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and adviser to Unity Consortium. “This disconnect widens the communications gap. Our goal in sharing these survey results is to encourage healthcare providers, parents, and teens to communicate better about vaccines. Because it’s not an exaggeration to say that one shot can mean the difference between life and death.”

Survey SnapshotCall To Action

Unity recommends immunizers make concerted efforts to ensure that teens don’t skip annual healthcare provider check-ups, especially at 11-12 and 16 years of age when vaccinations should be given. Reminder systems are vital, but the survey showed that less than half of immunizers have reminders in place to remind teens or their parents about needed or missed vaccinations. Unity developed a program for immunizers that helps improve delivery of a confident, concise, and consistent recommendation for routinely recommended vaccines to adolescents (Three Cs). Unity has also developed the INSPECT imperatives, which provide a framework for healthcare providers to address adolescent vaccination challenges through their immunization programs. INSPECT was developed based on experiences from adolescent health and immunization experts. To read more about the survey results, visit: Unity4TeenVax.org.

About the Survey

The survey was supported by Pfizer Inc., a member of Unity Consortium. The survey was fielded online by Harris Poll from September 26-October 7, 2016 among 506 teens age 13-18 years, 515 parents with a child between the ages of 13-18 years, 105 pharmacists, and 405 physicians who specialized in either family practice, general practice, internal medicine, or pediatrics, were duly licensed, spent 50% or more time in out-patient practice and 80% or more time in direct patient care, see an average of at least 250 patients per month, and regularly see teens for well visits.

Learn more about recommended adolescent vaccines at www.adolescentvaccination.org.

To join the conversation, follow NFID (@nfidvaccines) and Unity (@UnityConsortium) on Twitter using the hashtag #NIAM17, like NFID on Facebook, follow NFID on Instagram, join the NFID Linkedin Group, and subscribe to NFID Updates.