As ob-gyns, we are entrusted with protecting women’s health, including providing preventive health care services. During an annual well-woman visit, each of us has an opportunity to discuss many topics: contraception, reproductive health, cardiovascular risk factors, healthy eating, exercise, smoking cessation, and more. It’s also an important time to discuss and provide necessary immunizations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and ACOG recommend vaccinations for adults throughout life. However, data from its National Health Interview Survey show that adults are not getting the immunizations they need. For example, only 20 percent of adults who are candidates for the pneumococcal vaccine got it, and just 14 percent of adults received the Tdap vaccine.
There is no reason for patients to be vulnerable to these preventable diseases.
Why are adult vaccination rates so low? According to the National Public Health Information Coalition, it may be because most adults are not aware of recommended vaccines beyond influenza. But ob-gyns and other health care providers can help. Women are more likely to get vaccinated following a recommendation and offer from their doctors. In addition, reports show that almost half of women of reproductive age consider their ob-gyns to be a part of their routine care. For these women, a visit to an ob-gyn may be the only opportunity to discuss the benefits of vaccination.
As flu season begins, it is a great time to begin offering vaccines in your practice. All women, particularly pregnant women, need the flu shot. ACOG offers many resources, including guidelines on integrating immunizations into practice, an immunization guide for health care providers and patients, and information on setting up a vaccination program in your practice.
As the leaders in women’s health care, ob-gyns can help educate women on the importance of vaccines and help increase adult vaccination rates. For more information on immunizations, visit immunizationforwomen.org.