Nursing assistants are in the frontline of patient care. Sometimes they encounter patients or the patient’s family who refuse vaccinations. Although CNAs could not administer most vaccines, it is within their role to promote immunizations and their immense benefits.
The campaign against vaccines is gaining wider support online and is one of the primary reasons why people refuse to vaccinate and why vaccine-preventable diseases are on the rise.
A study done in 2011 claims that there are parents who do not follow the immunization schedule or do not allow their children to be immunized. The study found that the parents were worried about the safety of the ‘ingredients’ of the vaccines. Some parents were against giving several vaccines on the same day. Others did not believe that the vaccines are effective or that the diseases they are supposed to prevent are that serious.
There are also a large number of adults who are currently unvaccinated. According to a survey conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014, only 43% of people aged 19 and above received the annual flu vaccine. Only one out of five adults had received the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, and again, one out of five of those who are supposed to receive the pneumococcal vaccine received it. Also, of the older population (60 years old and above) only 28% received the shingles vaccine.
These scenarios paint a clear picture of the future. The number of the highly contagious infections these immunizations are supposed to prevent will be rising in the years to come, and those who are too weak to fight infections, as well as the unvaccinated, will be at risk.
So what’s a CNA supposed to do when they encounter such situations where people hesitate or refuse vaccinations while assisting the nurse during an immunization program? Is it time to hit the panic button?
When coming across people who are openly against being immunized, the first thing to remember is to remain calm and show respect. Nursing assistants have to remember that everyone has the right to have their own opinion. Next, they have to educate themselves about immunizations and seek reliable information from trusted sources such as government agencies and health institutions. They can learn the basics, such as which vaccine is given at a certain age. When confronted with why there is a need to vaccinate, nursing assistants can explain that if vaccination rates decrease, then the number of those who get the diseases will increase in return.
The CNA can also inform parents and other people that the safety and effectiveness of vaccines are well-backed by many scientific studies and that the risk of side effects are really small. Vaccines protect individuals against certain highly contagious diseases that may have grave consequences if they get infected with them. Being protected also helps safeguard people who are too weak to fight infections, such as the newborn, the elderly, and the sick.
If in case that there is a need for more detailed information regarding immunization programs, CNAs can always ask the help of the nurse or the physician who can provide further health education regarding the vaccines and the diseases they intend to prevent.
Lastly, nursing assistants should not only promote immunization, they should also ‘walk their talk' meaning that they should always be up to date on getting their own immunizations. CNAs should keep in mind that as healthcare workers, they are constantly exposed to different micro-organisms that cause infections, and, therefore, being updated in all recommended immunizations is one way of protecting themselves, their loved ones, and those they care for, in an indirect way.
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