The Philadelphia Immunization Coalition is...
Working Together for Improved Immunization Rates Across the Lifespan
Working Together for Improved Immunization Rates Across the Lifespan
PIC has a direct interest in legislative and regulatory issues that address immunization issues across the lifespan.
The Coalition works to provide communication and information on these legislative and regulatory efforts. We take support or oppose positions on specific bills or regulations only when there is consensus among PIC members that the issue is of critical importance and is consistent with the mission of PIC.
The Philadelphia Immunization Coalition is a nonpartisan organization and does not make political endorsements. The Coalition may, however, take a position on and advocate for specific immunization-related programs, policies, and legislation that the Board of Directors considers supportive of the mission of the Coalition
How to advocate locally: What can you do?
Advocacy efforts can range from email and letter writing campaigns to legislative visits. The strategy you pick will depend on your goal, the specific situation/issue at hand, and your capacity. For a list of suggestions see section below on Strategies for Getting our Immunization Message to Policy Makers.
Legislative visits are a good way to help educate decision makers on immunization issues. They help to put a face on the issues, express constituency concern, and position you and your organization as a credible resource for immunization issues that may arise in the future. Contact information on legislators can be found here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. If you don’t know your legislator, call your County Elections Office or go to https://www.legis.state.pa.us/, click “Your Legislature”, and input your zip code.
It is important to plan ahead for a legislator visit. The step-by-step Visiting with Your Legislator outline may help guide your planning efforts. During your visit, it is helpful to have talking points outlining the key messages you want to communicate in a logical order. The Legislator Talking Points is an example of such an outline.
Strategies for Getting Our Message to Policy Makers
There is a wide range of possible strategies for getting our immunization messages to policy makers. Here are a few ideas:
Visiting with Your Legislator
When well planned, in person legislative visits are a great way to get immunization messages to policy makers. Being prepared is key to a successful visit. The following outline is here to help you get ready for visiting with your legislator. Someone who has made legislative visits before also can provide you with tips and suggestions from their experiences.
Goals for Legislative Meetings:
Set clear goals for your legislative meeting. Example goals:
- To educate legislators/staff about immunizations and statewide and local immunization coalitions.
- To determine how involved/interested the legislator is in immunizations and what level of knowledge and awareness they have regarding this issue. (To be assessed during the meeting.)
- To gather information for future visits, events, efforts on immunizations at the local level.
First, set up your teams for who will be on the visit. Teams can be 2-4 people; try to include a wide range of local participants, e.g., those representing public health, medical, nursing, Rotarians, Kiwanis, business, etc. This demonstrates the importance and wide range of immunization issues as well as the broad level of interest in immunization.
Second, develop your script. What information do you want to share? This includes developing 2-3 key points, determining who will be the lead on this visit and who will do the introductions (meet and greets), and deciding who will say what (everyone should speak). You should leave informational materials behind that the legislator can reference at a later date. You can also take legislators a small gift or something that will remind them of the visit.
Third, determine what available information about local IZ program(s) should be made available as “handout” information for the legislator visit. This information packet is left with the policy maker. The packet should include general IZ information as well as information specific to your area IZ program.
Fourth, make an appointment with your legislator by calling their office. You can also fax or write a brief letter requesting the meeting. Be sure to follow up with a phone call. When trying to get an appointment be flexible with the day and time. While you want to meet with the legislator, it is not always possible. Do not feel slighted if you meet with their staff. If you have to meet with staff, ask for staff that has health as their policy area. Contact information on legislators can be found here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. If you don’t know your legislator, call your County Elections Office or go to https://www.legis.state.pa.us/, click “Your Legislature,” and input your zip code.
Fifth, meet half an hour prior to your visit. Use this time to review who will say what, double check your information packet, and make assignments for sending a thank you note and debriefing form.
Sixth, during the meeting make the key points as succinctly as possible. Ask your legislator if they have questions or concerns regarding the local or state Immunization Program or IZ issues. Don’t argue with your legislator. If they attempt to argue, make statements like “yes, but have you thought about it this way? or “I see your point, but our point is…” Offer to be a resource on IZ issues. Don’t speak beyond your level of knowledge.
Seventh, send a thank you note. You might include any information you think may be useful or follows up on a point made during the meeting. Invite your legislator to visit clinics/programs. Stay in touch.
Legislator Talking Points
The following represents points you can make during your legislative visit. The major point should be the immunization efforts in your area. Having someone on your team, who is knowledgeable or works with the local immunization program(s), makes their remarks more credible. You will also want to include information about PIC and its efforts to assure children are fully immunized statewide.
- Information about PIC – PIC is a wide-ranging affiliation of businesses and other organizations statewide that advocate for full immunization across the lifespan. (You can include mission statement or other information.)
- Information about Local Efforts – (Discuss the local efforts in you/your legislator’s area and how they complement the activities of PIC as well as how the local and statewide groups work together.)
- Why We Are Here/Need – Full immunization remains a problem in Philadelphia particularly among certain ethnic, geographic, and socio-economic groups. Not being fully immunized remains a matter of life or death. (You can share local efforts to fully immunize infants and toddlers and give Philadelphia statistics and those specific to your area.)
- Those At Risk – Children 2 years or younger are at highest risk for getting vaccine preventable diseases. These diseases can have serious complications that can be devastating to both the child and their family, including hospital costs, time away from work, permanent disability, and death.
- Barriers to IZs – Philadelphia children who are in school have immunization rates of over 90% because you cannot enroll in a licensed day care facility or school unless you show proof of immunizations. (Personal belief exemptions are available for parents who decline to immunize their children and medical exemptions for children with medical conditions that preclude immunization.) However, by age 2, before kids go to school and when they are most vulnerable to these diseases, immunization rates are lower. This is due to missed opportunities in provider offices or clinics, lack of information about the immunization schedule, uninsured and under insured children, and the increasing mobility of many families.
- Immunization Tracking System – Despite best efforts, immunization records are often incomplete: families move often, insurance changes force kids to switch doctors, parents lose the IZ records they are given, doctor’s records are sometimes not complete, health records are lost or information is not given to parents. This can result in missed immunizations as well as over-immunization of children.
- To resolve these problems, Philadelphia has developed a computerized system for tracking IZs, however, not all doctors are accessing the system, and not all youngsters under 2 years are included in those registries. There is no systematic, automatic way of tracking a child’s immunization history. National, state and private funding has enabled the State to develop a regional registry system, but additional funding for continued expansion to a statewide registry system is imperative.
- Cost Savings – Immunizations save anywhere from $14 -$21 per health dollar spent in reduced medical costs. Immunizations have been demonstrated to be the most cost effective use of health dollars.
Engage the Legislator in dialogue about:
- Concerns they have about immunizations
- How aware they were of the IZ programs in their area
- Interest in being kept informed about this issue
- Additional information you can provide about local efforts