Speakers Highlight the Importance of Adolescent Vaccinations

Experts Come Together to Share the Importance of Adolescent Vaccines

A new initiative from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) seeks to educate providers, staff and patients about the vital need to vaccinate teenagers. In many states, including Colorado, vaccination rates among teens for HPV, flu, meningitis and others are below the goals set by Healthy People 2020. Parents of teenagers may not realize that adolescent vaccines can be just as life-saving as the vaccinations their children received as babies.

Family physicians play an important role in getting patients of all ages vaccinated. The CAFP hosted a panel during the 2017 Wellness Conference to remind physicians of the most updated recommendations, and what is at stake for adolescent patients and their families.

Dr. Zach Wachtl, a family physician with Clinica Family Health, kicked off the evening by facilitating a discussion among attendees, asking them what works and what doesn’t in their practice. Physicians and practitioners from many different settings shared challenges, from hesitant parents to confusing guidelines. They also shared strategies to overcome these challenges, as there are few people a family physician can better learn from than a fellow physician.

After Dr. Wachtl, Lynn Trefren, Immunization Branch Chief from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shared the most updated guidelines for adolescent vaccines; what vaccines, when, and why. Michael Ball, a 4th year pharmacy student at CU’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy added to Lynn’s presentation by giving an in-depth look at the science and recommendations behind the HPV vaccine.

To close the night, CAFP welcomed Robbin Thibodeaux, a parent advocate with the National Meningitis Association, who lost her 19-year-old son Tommy to meningitis. Robbin shared the horrible reality that, even though she carefully vaccinated her children when they were young, she was never advised to vaccinate Tommy for meningitis. She asked providers to remember that even vaccinations that aren’t mandatory can and do save lives.

To help all providers increase vaccination rates in their practices, talk to parents and teens about vaccines, and feel confident with current recommendations, the AAFP has created a new adolescent vaccination toolkit. Providers will find resources including videos, Q&A’s, reminder postcards, posters and more. Physicians interested in accessing the materials available from the AAFP can find them here.