Guest Blog Post from William Schaffner, MD, President of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, and Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
As president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, I am committed to spreading the word about the importance of vaccines for adults. It’s a hard sell. People worry about today’s problems not tomorrow’s solutions. In no group is this more relevant—or more worrisome—than in people with diabetes. And like all adults in this country, they are not vaccinated at nearly the rates we’d like to see.
People with diabetes may be overwhelmed with everything they need to do to maintain their health. They may have a hard time thinking about taking on one more responsibility. That’s where you and I, and every other medical professional, come in. We need to embrace our roles as patient advocates and help them make informed, active and positive decisions for their health.
Many consumer studies and surveys, including several by NFID, have assessed consumer attitudes toward vaccines and what motivates them to get vaccinated. Two main themes have emerged repeatedly. First, the vast majority of adults have mostly positive opinions about vaccines. Second, the biggest factor that will move most of them from feeling positive to actually getting vaccinated is a healthcare professional’s recommendation.
This brings us to an interesting but unfortunate bit of information. Two recent NFID surveys show a big disconnect between what patients hear and what physicians think they’re saying. Physicians say they always recommend vaccines. Patients say they rarely do. This is probably an issue of tone and message delivery. We might say “have you thought about getting your hepatitis vaccine?” when we should say “you need to be vaccinated against hepatitis B. I can give you your first dose right now.”
So why am I telling you this? Because surveys also show that our patients—yes our patients—will take this message from a range of healthcare professionals. And that likely includes you. I urge every health professional who comes in contact with patients—doctors, pharmacists, nurses, diabetes educators and all others—to make strong vaccine recommendations. You can be confident that vaccines are safe and effective and, all things considered, an easy way to safeguard part of the diabetic patient’s health.
If you haven’t read it already, please review AADE’s excellent position statement on vaccines to learn which vaccines people with diabetes need. And then find your voice and make a strong recommendation. It’s the right thing to do for your patients.