Back-to-school season is a critical time to ensure children receive the necessary vaccines and sports physicals ahead of the upcoming school year. Although COVID-19 vaccine eligibility has recently expanded to include children six months old and up, parents may have to wade through vaccine misinformation when making decisions about their children’s health. Providers can increase parents’ confidence in back-to-school vaccines with the right digital patient communication strategy to encourage parents to proactively stay on top of their children’s health needs.
Opportunities to Increase Vaccination Rates in Children
During the pandemic, vaccination rates have suffered as many patients delayed well visits and routine immunizations. Due to social distancing, cases of common illnesses like influenza dropped significantly, so patients may think they can skip an annual flu shot. However, the CDC still recommends that nearly everyone 6 months and older receive an influenza vaccine every year.
The COVID-19 vaccine is just one of the CDC’s recommended vaccinations for children under 18, but vaccine uptake has varied widely by state. Approximately 16.7 million children aged 6 months to 4 years old and 18 million children ages 5 to 11 have yet to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While the coronavirus vaccine has been top of mind for many, it’s critical for healthcare providers to promote routine vaccines including influenza vaccinations as a key component of overall wellness.
Physicians serve as an invaluable resource in promoting vaccine confidence. In fact, 95 percent of patients expressed a high level of trust in their doctors, according to Stericycle’s 2021 U.S. Consumer Trends in Patient Engagement Survey. Providers have an opportunity to address questions and potential misinformation about vaccinations by sharing materials from credible sources, such as the CDC. In addition, your team can provide informative resources for early childhood professionals, teachers, and administrators to further spread the word and answer common vaccination questions.
How to Host an Effective Back-to-School Vaccine Clinic
Partnering with schools or early care and education (ECE) programs can help spread the word about upcoming vaccination clinics. School-located vaccination (SLV) clinics can be more convenient for parents, as well as enable catch-up vaccinations for students who missed them during the pandemic. These clinics can be held before, during, or after school hours, or during summer break. Here are some strategies to ensure a school-located vaccination clinic is a success:
Plan ahead: Before holding a vaccination clinic, your practice must determine which vaccines will be offered, when the clinic will be held to account for building access or possible class disruption and whether eligibility to participate will be limited to enrolled students or include school staff, parents, and other family members.
Adhere to safety best practices: Ensuring vaccines are stored and administered correctly is a critical component of hosting an off-site vaccination clinic. Staff training also helps school-located vaccine clinics run smoothly. This resource from the CDC includes a checklist of considerations for vaccination clinics.
Promote the vaccine clinic using digital patient engagement strategies: Spreading the word about your school-located vaccine clinic helps to increase participation, especially if it is open to people beyond enrolled students. Promotional content about the clinic should be clear about eligibility and scheduling instructions. It’s also important to scale digital engagement efforts to the amount of vaccine that will be available at the clinic.
Engage Patients and Boost Vaccination Rates with a Back-to-School Vaccine Clinic
With back-to-school season upon us, holding a school-located vaccine clinic is a great way for parents to ensure their children are up to date on all recommended vaccinations for their age group and have the necessary physicals to participate in school athletics. To learn more about how to hold a vaccination and sports physical clinic, Stericycle’s Health Awareness Playbook offers tips on digital engagement strategies designed to make your event a success.