This article appeared in ABC-7. Read the full story here.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American College Health Association (ACHA), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Pharmacists Association (APhA), Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), and Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) have issued a joint call-to-action urging healthcare professionals to establish an adolescent healthcare visit at 16 years of age to ensure their patients receive recommended adolescent vaccines. The letter is available at www.immunize.org/letter/16-year-old-platform.pdf.
Establishing this 16-year-old immunization platform will remind clinicians to assess and provide recommended vaccines at this age. Significantly, this visit will also provide a clinician opportunity to discuss other recommended preventive screenings with adolescents.
According to the most recent (2017) CDC data, coverage rates for several recommended adolescent vaccinations are quite low. For example:
- The coverage rate for the second (booster) dose of quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY), which is recommended at age 16, was only 44% by the 18th birthday.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine coverage among adolescents for =1 dose was only 66% (69% for females; 63% for males); and only 49% of adolescents (53% for females; 44% for males) had completed a full HPV vaccine series.
- Less than half (47%) of adolescents age 13–17 years received influenza vaccine during the 2017–2018 influenza season.
The delivery of a strong recommendation on the importance of adolescent vaccines from a trusted physician or other healthcare provider is a critical factor to improving these coverage rates.
“Our nation’s inability to successfully vaccinate adolescents leaves many teens and young adults vulnerable to potentially life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Deborah Wexler, MD, executive director of the Immunization Action Coalition.
“Immunizations are one of the important topics that teens, parents, and healthcare professionals discuss during the adolescent years,” said AAP President Kyle Yasuda, MD. “It’s important that they receive vaccines in a timely manner to be fully protected from infections and disease.”
“The 16-year-old visit is the perfect opportunity for the physician to administer the second dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY), the flu vaccine, and discuss the MenB vaccine,” said AAFP President John Cullen, MD. “We have the chance to not only help the adolescent prepare for the future, but this visit is an excellent opportunity to catch up on other vaccines such as HPV and Tdap. Parents look to us for this guidance.”
According to Amy Middleman, MD, MPH, MSEd, SAHM’s liaison to the ACIP, “Establishing a 16-year-old healthcare visit for immunizations reinforces the need for a preventive health visit at that age. This visit enables providers to address multiple healthcare needs for the patient, with an age-appropriate emphasis on behavioral health needs. By emphasizing the 16-year-old visit, providers have the opportunity to address other preventive strategies while also administering a high yield preventive strategy in the form of vaccines.”
As they mature into young adults, adolescents also benefit from having multiple points where they can receive vaccinations. For example, pharmacists are another important healthcare provider to improve access to these important adolescent vaccines. “As valued members of the immunization neighborhood, pharmacists play an important role in assessing, educating, recommending, administering and documenting adolescent vaccinations,” said Mitchel Rothholz, RPh, MBA, chief strategy officer for the American Pharmacists Association. “Their access to the public makes receipt of needed vaccinations easier, referring patients to other practitioners, where appropriate.”
“Reaching young women at this point during their teen years for vaccination will help physicians prepare them for lifelong health, and for many young women, that means beginning important conversations about how contraception may begin to fit into their healthcare decision-making,” said Lisa M. Hollier, MD, MPH, FACOG, Interim EVP/CEO of ACOG.
The 16-year-old visit initiates active engagement of adolescents in their own health as they transition into young adulthood. “To be successful, both academically and socially, college students must stay healthy. ACHA strongly supports efforts to get patients to engage early on in conversations with their medical providers regarding the importance of vaccines in maintaining their future health as college students,” says Susan Even, MD, chair of the American College Health Association’s Vaccine-Preventable Disease Committee and liaison to ACIP.
Our nation’s leading medical and public health organizations have come together to urge their members and other healthcare providers to work together to ensure that adolescent patients are given the protection and guidance they need as they advance toward adulthood.