An emergency department-based vaccination program: overcoming the barriers for adults at high risk for vaccine-preventable diseases.
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More than 10% of the population visit emergency departments (ED) every year. Many of these patients are not up-to-date on routine vaccinations that could prevent future illnesses. The ED could significantly impact these vaccination trends.This study was a feasibility study to determine whether patients would be amenable to an ED-based program that provided appropriate immunizations when they were at high risk for these diseases. In addition, the authors sought to identify barriers that predict high-risk patients who did not receive immunizations before ED presentation and to identify barriers that predict those high-risk unvaccinated patients who are unwilling to receive vaccinations when offered in the ED.This study was a prospective cross-sectional study of all patients arriving in the ED at one inner-city trauma center between 10 am and 10 pm over the course of a three-week intervention period. The subjects completed a survey that included information about their risk of influenza (flu) and pneumococcal disease, their immunization history, and their perceptions of their need for immunization. Demographic information collected included insurance status, age, gender, and primary language. All high-risk patients who were not current with their immunizations were offered vaccination. The primary outcome was improvement in vaccination coverage based on an ED surveillance and treatment system for vaccinations. The secondary outcomes were barriers to successful vaccination before ED presentation and barriers to acceptance of vaccination in the ED. Results were compared using chi-square test and confidence interval analysis. Characteristics of barriers to immunization were determined using a logistic regression model. A p-value < 0.05 was considered significant.A total of 674 subjects were entered into the study. Vaccination of subjects at high risk for flu increased significantly from 16% before to 83% after ED evaluation and treatment, and vaccination of subjects at high risk for pneumococcal disease increased significantly from 18% before to 84% after ED evaluation and treatment. Significant barriers to vaccination before ED presentation were lack of insurance (odds ratio [OR] = 0.31 for flu, 0.22 for pneumococcal disease), age younger than 50 years (OR = 0.18 for flu, 0.24 for pneumococcal disease), and no perceived need for vaccination (OR = 0.07 for flu). The sole significant barrier to vaccine administration in the ED was perceived need for vaccination (OR = 0.32 for flu).An ED-based vaccination program is both feasible and successful. Other than a shortage of vaccine, the only ED barrier to vaccination (perceived need) might be overcome with patient education.