Back to school is an annual reminder to make sure children are fully vaccinated. But vaccination is a life-long health concern and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) urges adults to use the seasonal cue to ensure their own immunizations are up to date.
Vaccine-preventable diseases - such as measles, mumps, flu and whooping cough - are an ongoing public health threat, with an active mumps outbreak currently reported in Illinois. Outbreaks in 2015 infected patients of all ages and resulted in hospitalizations and death.
The AOA, which represents the more than 110,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and medical students in the U.S, resolved at its annual business meeting that DOs should treat patients' vaccination history as an integral part of their health record. That new policy also urges DOs to take all reasonable steps to ensure patients are fully immunized against vaccine-preventable illness regardless of their age.
The policy is important guidance for physicians because adults typically assume they were fully vaccinated as children, said Jennifer Caudle, DO, assistant professor of family medicine at Rowan University. That assumption wasn't an issue when vaccination compliance was high and many illnesses were at or near eradication levels, Caudle added. Today, even those who were fully vaccinated may have waning immunity, leaving them vulnerable to outbreak illnesses.
"Vaccination schedules change over time and the ongoing outbreaks show us the importance of ensuring all patients are protected to the current standard," Dr. Caudle explained. "As an osteopathic family physician, I believe vaccination is one of most effective tools available to keep my patients healthy, particularly when there are known threats."
It's not uncommon to lose vaccination records. If you're unable to verify which vaccines you've received, Dr. Caudle recommends talking with your doctor about testing for immunity or repeating vaccinations.
"It's never been more important for doctors and physicians to work together to ensure vaccinations and health records are up to date. For most patients, it is safe to receive additional vaccination doses or test for immunity to certain diseases." said Caudle. "With the growing number of infectious disease outbreaks, you are doing more harm for yourself and those around you if you don't get vaccinated."
DOs are trained to partner with patients to help them get healthy and stay well. Recently, the association urged the public to become familiar with the hallmark signs of vaccine-preventable diseases to help contain outbreaks. A simple reference is available to help patients quickly recognize the telltale signs. Visit osteopathic.org/classicillnesses for additional information.
About the AOA
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 110,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at http://www.