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IHS Announces Vaccine Strategy: Every Patient Will Be Offered a Vaccine When Appropriate

by Dr. Loretta Christensen, MBA, MSJ, FACS, IHS Chief Medical Officer

As a critical public health prevention priority in our vulnerable service population, IHS advocates recommending vaccines to our patients. E3 focuses on 1) Every patient at 2) Every encounter should be offered 3) Every recommended vaccine when appropriate. Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to see disturbing trends reflecting decreased vaccine coverage for many vaccine-preventable illnesses. Even as we continue to deal with the dual public health emergencies of COVID-19 and monkeypox, it is essential that we amplify our efforts to ensure comprehensive vaccine access and coverage for all age groups both for emerging infectious diseases and routine vaccine preventable diseases.

I have directed all federal direct care sites to respond to this important call to action to increase vaccine coverage and protect against vaccine preventable illnesses in tribal communities. Every patient at every encounter will be offered every recommended vaccine when appropriate Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving .

IHS will exempt encounters in which a vaccine would not be appropriate such as when someone has a moderate or severe acute illness.

Historically, vaccine-preventable illness has taken a disproportionate toll in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. One of the indirect effects of the pandemic has been a decline in routine vaccine coverage rates for children, adolescents, and adults. While we continue to promote broad vaccine access for COVID-19 and American Indian and Alaska Native persons at risk for monkeypox, we must also ensure that we take every opportunity to offer routine vaccination, including seasonal influenza, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella and the full range of bacterial illnesses for which vaccines have been shown to be effective.

Throughout the pandemic, American Indians and Alaska Natives have had some of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates across the country. That is due to the work of federal, tribal and urban Indian organizations to inform patients about the vaccine and making them available to the people we serve. We can do this again by reaching out to our communities, applying the E3 Vaccine Strategy and providing access to routine vaccination. We will continue to advocate for vaccine access in tribal communities.

Dr. Loretta Christensen, MBA, MSJ, FACS, IHS Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Loretta Christensen, MBA, MSJ, FACS, an enrolled member of the Navajo Tribe, serves as the chief medical officer of the Indian Health Service. As the chief medical officer, Dr. Christensen is IHS' lead expert on medical and public health topics, giving technical consultation and guidance to the IHS Office of the Director and IHS staff throughout the country on American Indian and Alaska Native health care policies and issues. She provides national leadership for clinical and community-based health programs of the agency, and serves as the primary liaison and advocate for IHS health professionals.