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AAP chapters and health systems that received grants to increase immunization rates for young children say the improvements they implemented are helping them respond to decreases in vaccination due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Six grantees were part of a learning network formed by the AAP Chapter Quality Network (CQN) to implement and share practice improvements to increase immunization rates for children up to 3 years of age.
The teams agree that their work to address immunization systems at a population level is critical as they assess how the pandemic has affected their patients. As practices have seen a drop in well visits and an increase in telehealth visits, a systems approach to recalling and reminding patients to come in for immunizations is more important than ever.
“During the current coronavirus pandemic, the need for maintaining routine childhood immunizations is even more critical. The last thing that we need is (an) epidemic of vaccine-preventable diseases on top of this pandemic,” said Rajiv M. Naik, M.D., FAAP, who was part of the project led by Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation
and the Wisconsin Chapter. The project included online continuing medical education to address vaccine best practices and vaccine hesitancy as well as development of electronic health record optimization tools.
“Using the immunization dashboards and population health approaches developed during the grant period, we were able to identify a decline in our immunization rates during the early phases of the pandemic, leading to the early planning of ‘vaccine-only’ administration sites and a drive-through vaccination clinic,” said Dr. Naik, section head, Onalaska Pediatrics, Gundersen Health System, and a Wisconsin Chapter board member.
A team from Pennsylvania State University led improvement efforts for 120 pediatric care providers across 15 sites. Clinicians were trained on communicating with families who are vaccine hesitant, motivational interviewing, family engagement and reminder/recall systems.
”Population health and addressing parent hesitancy during the project have set us up well for care during the COVID pandemic,” said Benjamin Fogel, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, vice chair of quality for the Department of Pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine. “In the months to come, we are going to need to catch up a large number of patients on well-child care and vaccinations. Without the systems that we built during this grant, we would frankly be at a huge disadvantage. Our ability to easily tell at a population level which of our patients is behind on these necessary services is making it possible for us to plan for the surge in well care that will come when we return back to a more normal state of care.”
California Chapter 4, the Oklahoma Chapter, The Regents of the University of California and Vanderbilt University Medical Center also participated in the CQN Improving Pediatric Immunization Care learning network, which was funded by an independent grant from Pfizer Inc.