In a world flooded with apps and digital resources, the American Academy of Family Physicians mails easy-to-read patient vaccination schedules to members each year.
With vaccinations top of mind as the CDC reported this week that the number of measles cases in the U.S. topped 700—the highest mark in 25 years—the American Academy of Family Physicians recently sent its annual mailer of laminated vaccination schedules to its members.
“They like to have these laminated schedules so they can post them in the exam rooms,” said Julie Wood, MD, AAFP’s senior vice president for health of the public, science and interprofessional activities. “We usually send out about 80,000.”
The schedules contain immunization information for children/adolescents and adults. The association created an app, in partnership with the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, called Shots Immunizations, which also contains the information. While AAFP thought the app might be the best way to provide the information in today’s digital age, a member survey told them that’s not what practicing family physicians want.
“We just did a survey from our members, but we got resounding feedback: Yes, please continue,” Wood said. “This is something our members find really valuable. We’ve been in this digital age, but the print laminated one is what they want to have to regularly access those schedules.”
Even though many laypeople don’t realize it, the vaccination schedule changes annually. “It’s really important to have the updated version,” Wood said. “Sometimes, it will be there is a new immunization added. Sometimes, they will change the timing of recommendations—when they are given. The catchup schedule will change, too, for people who are behind in their immunizations.”
The immunization schedules are important to both current physicians and those in training. “I was in practice up until six years ago, and this was something we always looked forward to in our resident teaching program,” Wood said. “All the members got them, and we put them in the care pod and in the medication prep [area].”
While they’re placed in areas where patients can see them, the schedules are intended as a quick reference for the medical staff. “These are very specific; it’s for doctors and nurses and medical team members,” Wood said. “That helps them to order the proper immunizations. It is not a patient education piece.”
The immunization schedule is updated by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and released in February. Shortly after, AAFP creates the laminated version to send to its members. While the February update didn’t offer guidance specifically about the current measles outbreak, vaccination is key to preventing measles spread, Wood said.
While the U.S. has had an alarmingly high number of measles cases this year, the number of cases worldwide are on the rise as well, mainly due to lack of vaccination, AAFP’s liaison to ACIP, Pamela Rockwell, told AAFP News.
“That increase is part of a global trend seen over the past few years as other countries struggle with declining vaccination rates,” she said. “In the U.S., measles cases are due to an increase in the number of travelers who get measles abroad and bring it into the country, and further spread of measles is facilitated in local communities with pockets of unvaccinated people.”