Improving Adolescent Immunization Rates

Fall 2016


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends four vaccines for adolescents:

  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis vaccine (1 dose)
  • Meningococcal disease vaccine (2 doses)
  • Human papillomavirus vaccine(3 doses)
  • Influenza (one dose annually)

Research shows that immunization rates fall off dramatically during adolescence (ages 11-19). Many adolescents do not receive preventive care or attend well care visits. Therefore, it is important for health professionals to use all opportunities to ask about immunization status and to provide necessary immunizations. These opportunities include sick visits and sports or camp physicals. Any health care encounter is an opportunity to check immunization status.

Communication between providers, parents and adolescents is key. Education is an effective method of changing attitudes toward vaccination. Increasing parent knowledge about the importance of adolescent vaccines in a way that they can understand may change their views. Once properly educated, parents can make an informed decisions regarding having their adolescents immunized.

Here are four things providers can do to increase the incidence of your patients get fully vaccinated:

  1. Strongly recommend adolescent vaccines to parents. Parents trust your opinion more than anyone else’s when it comes to vaccinations. Studies consistently show that provider recommendation is the strongest predictor of vaccination.
  2. Use every opportunity to vaccinate. Ask about vaccination status at every adolescent visit.
  3. Patient reminder and recall systems such as automated postcards, phone calls and text messages are effective tools for increasing office visits.
  4. Implement standing orders policies so that patients can receive vaccines without a physician examination or individual physician order.