Association of Immunization Managers Encourages Collaboration and Investment in Immunization and Emergency Preparedness Programs to Prepare for Next Pandemic

The Association of Immunization Managers (AIM), representing the 64 federally funded state, territorial and large urban area immunization programs, applauds Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health for its findings in support of collaboration between immunization and emergency preparedness programs as the key to successful pandemic influenza response.

The Emory Preparedness and Emergency Research Center (Emory PERRC) manuscript entitled Perspectives of Immunization Program Managers on 2009-2010 H1N1 Vaccination in the United States: A National Survey, published in the March 2012 issue of Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science, highlights the value of ongoing collaboration and partnership between programs. Immunization programs that coordinated with their emergency preparedness programs to conduct pre-pandemic mass vaccination events were more likely to perceive their emergency preparedness staff as effective during the H1N1 pandemic than those who had not.

Pandemic Preparedness Collaboration Principles (PDF), released by AIM, encourage state, territorial and local immunization and emergency preparedness programs to establish relationships and routine communication; share information, resources and technology; and conduct ongoing drills to successfully prepare for the next pandemic.

“The value of partnership cannot be understated,” said AIM Chair and Washington State immunization program manager Janna Bardi. “In Washington State, longstanding relationships developed through routine planning drills and emergency exercises paid off during our H1N1 response.” Washington State provided more than 2.8 million doses of H1N1 vaccine and vaccinated 30% of its population.

“The research by Emory and AIM shows that planning and collaboration work,” said AIM Executive Director Claire Hannan. “Ongoing investment in staff, drills, exercises and technology improvements is critical to future success. Budget cuts have resulted in furloughs, hiring freezes and a shrinking public health work force. But disease doesn’t respect fiscal or geographic boundaries. The next pandemic or disease outbreak is only a plane ride away.
We must continue to cultivate relationships across agencies and invest in both immunization and preparedness programs.”

AIM will feature its pandemic preparedness collaboration principles in an April 10th, 2012 training broadcast, Strategies for Successful Integration of Immunization and Emergency Preparedness Programs in Planning and Practice, co-hosted by the South Central Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center, Emory PERCC and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials for all immunization program managers, emergency preparedness directors and state and local staff communications.

“With outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough threatening children across the country, public health immunization programs are prioritizing efforts to promote vaccine confidence,” said Dr. Katelyn Wells, AIM Research Coordinator. Recent AIM survey results show that most (87%; 47 of 57) immunization programs have prioritized activities, such as implementing public mass media campaigns to educating physicians on how to address the issue with parents. “Additional research to understand how to effectively communicate factual information to vaccine-hesitant parents will improve these public health efforts and protect more children,” added Dr. Wells.

AIM is making further efforts to support state, local and territorial immunization program efforts to promote vaccine confidence. The recently released “AIM Position Statement on Personal Belief Exemptions from State Vaccination Mandates,” encourages states and territories not to adopt new personal belief exemption policies and to strengthen existing exemption policies to assure that exemptions are only available after parental education and acknowledgment of the associated risk to their child and community.

“Most parents today haven’t seen disease. But with measles, mumps and whooping cough on the rise, parents need to understand the risks and benefits of vaccine,” said AIM Executive Director Claire Hannan. “Public health immunization programs need better insight on how to communicate with parents. We hope that the AIM Position Statement on Personal Belief Exemptions provides guidance to programs, and that the Academy’s report results in additional communication research. Our nation’s children deserve the greatest opportunity for a healthy life.”

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