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The American College of Physicians urges clinicians to make sure adult patients, especially the most vulnerable, are protected against preventable diseases as COVID spreads and flu is imminent.
The American College of Physicians points to the ongoing threat posed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and emerging variants as an essential reason for adults to make sure they are current with recommended vaccinations against preventable diseases.
In a statement today, ACP cites health experts’ fears that continued COVID-19 infections during the 2021-2022 influenza season could increase illness and hospitalizations and lead again to measures that could limit access to physicians and place significant stress on the US health care system.
“Immunizations protect against health problems, hospitalization, or even death,” said George M. Abraham, MD, MPH, president of ACP, in the statement. “They also help prevent the spread of disease, especially among those who are most vulnerable to serious complications, such as the elderly and those with chronic conditions and weakened immune systems, which is particularly important now given the risks associated with COVID-19.”
Adult immunizations against vaccine-preventable disease recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) guidelines include tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap); pneumococcal to protect against pneumococcal pneumonia, bacteremia, and meningitis; HPV to prevent cervical, anal, and other cancers; hepatitis A and B; and herpes zoster to help prevent shingles.
The reminder at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic is even more important given that routine adult vaccination rates have yet to reach pre-pandemic levels after falling by up to 62% in the first week after the March 2020 lockdown vs the same period in 2019. According to a report published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, routine adult immunization rates at their nadir were as much as 89% lower than the previous year.
ACP strongly encourages physician-patient discussions of needed vaccinations and clinician guidance on where vaccines, including COVID-19 and influenza, can be received, eg, physician offices, pharmacies, community health clinics.
In the statement ACP also reiterates the critical need for increased uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines now available under emergency use authorization from the FDA, emphasizing that benefits “far outweigh any harm.”
The latest adult immunization schedule and recommendations approved by the ACIP are available in Annals of Internal Medicine. ACP’s I Raise the Rates Adult Immunization Resource Hub has links to useful resources and important information to help physicians increase adult immunizations in their practice this year.