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Immunization Healthcare Branch outreach initiatives

Navy Lt. Jessica Miller, a certified nurse midwife in Naval Hospital Jacksonville’s pregnancy Integrated Practice Unit, assesses a patient. A key education initiative for the Defense Health Agency Immunization Healthcare Branch involved outreach to new parents or soon-to-be parents to address any questions or concerns they have about vaccines recommended during pregnancy, infancy or childhood. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel) Navy Lt. Jessica Miller, a certified nurse midwife in Naval Hospital Jacksonville’s pregnancy Integrated Practice Unit, assesses a patient. A key education initiative for the Defense Health Agency Immunization Healthcare Branch involved outreach to new parents or soon-to-be parents to address any questions or concerns they have about vaccines recommended during pregnancy, infancy or childhood. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

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One of the key education initiatives for the Defense Health Agency Immunization Healthcare Branch (DHA-IHB) in 2017 involved outreach to new parents or soon-to-be parents to address any questions or concerns they have about vaccines recommended during pregnancy, infancy or childhood.

The IHB Regional Vaccine Safety Hub (RVSH) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, advancing a partnership that began in 2016 with the Army Community Services’ New Parent Support Group, provides bi-monthly outreach lectures during childbirth classes on topics like the routine childhood immunization schedule, vaccine efficacy and safety, immunization recordkeeping, and the unique needs of the military and its beneficiaries.

“These talks provide accurate information and counter misinformation,” said Laurie Housel, a nurse practitioner at the Fort Bragg hub. “Parents want credible information and credible resources, and they appreciate our expertise and that we can talk about both the science and safety of vaccines.”

Immunization records, especially for military dependents, can get fragmented due to frequency of movement, lack of a universal record-keeping system, or families taking their children to civilian providers. New parents are advised to keep hard copies of their children’s immunization records to avoid inadequate documentation, which can lead to unnecessary vaccinations.

The RVSH also advises military families on additional vaccinations when preparing to PCS to foreign countries, where vaccine-preventable disease threats exist that may not exist in the U.S., such as Japanese encephalitis, typhoid fever, or yellow fever. Depending on where the family goes, non-routine booster doses of vaccines such as MMR or polio might be recommended, as well.

Children receive vaccines recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to protect against 14 diseases by age 6. That includes the benefits of mothers getting immunized during pregnancy to pass antibodies to their newborns, and immunizations that are given to the baby immediately following birth.

Housel and Health Educator Amanda Williams are also developing a vaccine hesitancy toolkit for health care providers to counsel prospective parents on the benefits of immunizations for their newborns. The toolkits include handout materials, website and book resources, and scripts for role-playing exercises.

Another topic discussed during these lectures is the concept of herd immunity, or community immunity, which means the percentage of immunized people in a community is high enough to help prevent a disease from spreading. Community immunity is often the only protection for children who cannot be immunized themselves due to various illnesses.

For more information on vaccines and the diseases they prevent at every stage of life, please visit IHB on the web at

www.health.mil/vaccines

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