At the beginning of the year, Shelly Roy contacted caregivers across the system to join an immunization task force to shape Monument Health’s approach to immunization awareness. She didn’t know it at the time, but a pandemic would soon make the team’s work even more important. COVID-19 has led some patients to put off routine care for fear of entering clinics, which means some kids and adults have fallen behind on their immunizations.
“COVID-19 has definitely led to people forgoing well-child visits and other routine care,” said Shelly, System Director of Case Management & Diabetic Education and Ambulatory Director of Nursing for Rapid City. “As a system we’ve done a great job making sure that our environments are safe places, so when you weigh the pros and cons of continuing your routine care and vaccinations, the benefits definitely outweigh any burdens.”
Dr. Kyle Adams, Family Medicine Residency Faculty, at FMR Clinic in Rapid City.
With the start of school around the corner (whatever that might look like), the task force is currently focusing on getting children to come in for their required vaccines. They’re leveraging medical records and tracking methods to ensure an efficient process for contacting patients. Caregivers are also working closely with a statewide immunization coalition, which puts them in touch with health care systems throughout the state, helping all organizations share information and improve processes.
Mary Beth McLellan, Manager of Clinical Operations for the Family Medicine Residency (FMR) Clinic, said the key to compliance when it comes to vaccinations is direct communication with parents and making the process as easy as possible. She said family medicine residents evaluate vaccination status as a part of all visits.
“We need to personally reach out to parents and explain to them why this is important, and then we need to give them options” she said. “As caregivers it’s important that we make this a normal conversation and that every time we see someone, we’re thinking about it. Prevention is huge.”
Dr. Tricia Jensen, Chief Resident with the FMR program, said now more than ever, the importance of immunizations needs to be recognized. While she understands patients’ hesitancy to visit health care environments right now, she stresses that delaying vaccinations can increase the risk of contracting and spreading illnesses that people would have otherwise been protected from.
“COVID-19 has shown how novel infections impact everyone,” she said. “At the Family Medicine Residency Clinic, we are continuing to promote vaccinations as a safe and effective method to protect patients and their loved ones.”
Mary Beth has seen firsthand the delay in care with infants and children that the pandemic has brought on. “I’m seeing 6-month-old babies get their first set of shots,” she said. “Childhood diseases are still out there, so it’s very important for these babies to get their shots on schedule.”
As we begin National Immunization Awareness Month, let’s all do our part to educate our families and our patients about the importance of continuing routine care, including vaccinations.