Mikaela Kramer, Oregon State University
Oregon Immunization Program HPV Intern
Figuring out how to increase human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination rates doesn’t have to be different for every clinic. The barriers to vaccination typically fall into one of three categories: 1) misinformation (e.g. my child isn’t at risk for HPV, vaccination promotes sex, etc.); 2) communication (e.g. staff and/or parents discomfort discussing sex); or 3) timing (e.g. getting patients to initiate and complete the series). We spoke with a couple of local clinics that are succeeding in getting teens vaccinated with HPV vaccine. We wanted to know what works and what strategies other clinics could adopt.
Yellowhawk Tribal Health Clinic
Debbie Barry, the VFC Immunization Coordinator at Yellowhawk Tribal Health Clinic in Pendleton, credits their high HPV immunization rates with teamwork. Instead of having one HPV vaccination champion in the clinic, Debbie makes sure each staff member is proactive and confident when communicating about HPV prevention. She educates staff about the human papilloma virus, HPV vaccine and about strategies for communication with patients and their parents.
Being straightforward with patients and their parents about HPV and the vaccine promotes open communication. When parents raise concerns that vaccination will promote sexual activity, Debbie keeps her answer simple – HPV provides protection from cancers and warts that the patient may be exposed to in the future by their partners. She encourages patients and their parents to educate themselves about the disease. To encourage completion of the series, Yellowhawk sends reminder letters to patient’s monthly showing which vaccines are due and providing contact information for making appointments or finding out more information.
Yakima Valley Farm Worker (YVFW) Clinics
Not every strategy works perfectly without some refinement. Regional Nursing Supervisor for Western Oregon, Christine Wysock, emphasizes that trial and error is necessary for finding out what works. In her clinics, Christine has found that highlighting the new two-dose schedule and that the vaccine prevents cancer is persuasive, as well as reminding parents that the vaccine can prevent infections years from now. She also recommends talking with patients and their parents about getting the HPV vaccine done that day. Christine was also able to take advantage of educational materials and tracking tools provided by the vaccine’s manufacturer, saving the time and cost of developing her own materials. Christine also stresses that teamwork is essential. Her staff all receive continuing education about vaccination strategies, ensuring that everyone is giving the same messages.
Several of these strategies could be replicated in any size practice in a short time frame. Educating your staff and encouraging them to promote HPV at every patient encounter can make a measurable difference in your HPV immunization rates. If you want to institute reminder letters in your practice, ALERT Immunization Information System (IIS) can easily generate a custom letter. Educational materials are available from a variety of sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. If you need help implementing these strategies, please contact the Oregon Immunization Program. Let’s educate and vaccinate against HPV.
If you have any questions about your clinic’s immunization rates, please feel free to reach out to the Oregon Immunization Program’s Vaccines For Children Help Desk at 971-673-4832 or VFC.firstname.lastname@example.org