Tag: immunization records

Is There a Grace Period for Getting Vaccines?

You know about the standard immunization schedule.

Looking at the latest immunization schedule from the CDC and AAP, it should be clear that kids don't get 69 vaccines.
What happens if you get a vaccine a few days too early?

You may even know about the minimum ages or minimum intervals between vaccines, but what happens if your child gets a vaccine just a few days early?

Is There a Grace Period for Getting Vaccines?

Fortunately, in most cases, getting a vaccine just a little early isn’t going to mean that the vaccine dose has to be repeated.

“Doses administered too close together or at too young an age can lead to a suboptimal immune response. However, administering a dose a few days earlier than the minimum interval or age is unlikely to have a substantially negative effect on the immune response to that dose. Known as the “grace period”, vaccine doses administered ≤4 days before the minimum interval or age are considered valid; however, local or state mandates might supersede this 4-day guideline.”

General Best Practice Guidelines for Immunization: Best Practices Guidance of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)

That’s because the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) allows a 4-day grace period for most vaccines. So if your child got their vaccines 3 or 4 days before their 1st birthday, instead of on or after turning 12 months old, they would still count!

It is important to keep in mind that:

  • day 1 is the day before the day that marks the minimum age or minimum interval for a vaccine.
  • the grace period doesn’t apply to the rabies vaccine
  • if a vaccine is given 5 or more days too early, beyond the grace period, then the interval to the next dose starts from the day that invalid dose was given. For example, if the second dose of Hib is given two weeks after the first dose (instead of the minimum 4 weeks), then you don’t repeat this invalid dose in two weeks (four weeks from the first dose), but instead wait an additional four weeks from the invalid second dose
  • you can’t usually add the grace period to an accelerated schedule
  • live vaccines must be given at least 28 days apart if they are not given at the same time and the grace period can not be used to shorten this interval

Most importantly, in place since 2002, the grace period protects kids from having to repeat vaccines because of minor vaccine scheduling errors.

More on the Vaccine Grace Period

Strategies for Increasing Childhood Vaccination Rates

How do we improve vaccination rates?

A very clever immunization reminder system for parents.
A very clever immunization reminder system for parents.

One way is to help parents get educated about vaccines, so that they understand that vaccines work, vaccines are safe, and that vaccines are necessary.

Strategies for Increasing Childhood Vaccination Rates

Vaccine-hesitant parents who might delay or skip some of their child’s vaccines aren’t the only reason vaccination rates aren’t where they should be though.

“Immunization levels in the United States are high, but gaps still exist, and providers can do much to maintain or increase immunization rates among patients in their practice.”

CDC on The Need for Strategies to Increase Immunization Levels

How do we fix these gaps in immunization rates?

Some easy things to do that can help increase vaccination rates might include:

  • regularly posting vaccine education material on your social media accounts
  • maintaining a good supply of vaccines
  • reminding parents to bring their immunization records with them to each appointment, especially if they are new patients
  • keeping accurate immunization records on each patient
  • carefully recording vaccines that have been given outside your office
  • using an immunization information system or immunization registry to make it easier to keep track of immunization records
  • generating lists of patients who’s vaccines are past due
  • using reminder and recall messages, either phone calls, text messages, or postcards, etc., so that parents are notified when vaccines are due soon or past due
  • using an electronic health record system to automatically generate prompts when vaccines are due at well visits and sick visits
  • manually reviewing your patient’s vaccination status at each visit, whether it is a sick visit, well visit, or just a nurse visit, to see if they need any immunizations. Remember, a mild illness is not usually a contraindication to getting vaccinated.
  • reducing missed opportunities to vaccinate kids by using standing orders and “nurse only” or “shots only” visits for vaccinations
  • having extended hours for some scheduled or walk-in vaccination clinics
  • enrolling in the Vaccines for Children program to provide free vaccine to families who are uninsured

And most importantly, office staff need to get educated about vaccines too, especially about the anti-vaccine talking points that might keep some kids from getting vaccinated on time. They should also understand the immunization schedule and catch-up immunization schedule, so they can easily recognize which vaccines are due.

“Pediatricians in the sample often provided parents with inconsistent, mixed messages and sometimes offered information about HPV or HPV vaccination that was inaccurate. Pediatricians used presumptive language in only 11 of 75 encounters; when used, presumptive language was associated with higher odds of accepting HPV vaccine.”

Sturm et al, on Pediatrician-Parent Conversations About Human Papillomavirus Vaccination: An Analysis of Audio Recordings

Pediatricians who are getting frustrated talking to parents who have been refusing vaccines might also learn a few new things, including how to use presumptive language.

What is presumptive language?

In the HPV vaccination study quoted above, it was defined as “a matter-of-fact statement that the child was due for or would receive HPV vaccine that day or at a future date, conveying a positive stance toward vaccination.” This is in contrast to a nonpresumptive style that “involved questions or uncertainty,” such as “do you want to get a shot today?”

“High-quality recommendations were strongly associated with HPV vaccination behavior, but only about one-third of parents received them.”

Gilkey et al, on Provider communication and HPV vaccination: The impact of recommendation quality

In addition to using presumptive language, another study has found that “By endorsing HPV vaccine highly, recommending same-day vaccination, and emphasizing cancer prevention, providers may be able to promote HPV vaccine initiation and completion while discouraging vaccine refusal and delay.”

Can these strategies work for your office?

What to Know About Increasing Childhood Vaccination Rates

From using reminder systems and standing orders to changing how you talk to parents, there are a lot of things that can be done to increase childhood vaccination rates.

More on Increasing Childhood Vaccination Rates