By the bioMérieux Connection Editors
In the mid-1960s, it was evident that there was a need for greater patient access to general medical services, and this was a principal motivator for establishment of the physician assistant (PA) profession. A physician assistant is a licensed medical professional who holds an advanced degree and is able to provide direct patient care, under a supervising physician. Since the 1960s, PAs have effectively helped to deliver primary care services in many healthcare settings. As of 2019, PAs are on about 20% of hospital medical staffs in the United States and the number is growing.
National PA Week is celebrated each year from October 6-12, which recognizes the PA profession and its contributions to the nation’s health. Before it was a weeklong event, National PA Day was initially celebrated on October 6, 1987 to honor the 20th anniversary of the first graduating class of PAs. The birthday of the profession’s founder, Eugene A. Stead Jr., MD, also falls on October 6.
Because the 2020 National PA Week falls during a pandemic, it is especially significant. PAs have been putting their health at risk every day to care for their patients and have proven themselves as essential to our nation’s health. This year, PAs across the country have chosen to join together during National PA Week to remind the public how important vaccinations are and to encourage everyone to get a flu shot.
Throughout the pandemic, one concern has been that many patients have been forgoing routine health checks and/or other preventative care because they want to avoid medical settings. There has been a sharp decline in vaccination rates over the last several months, and the decline in rates of childhood immunizations is particularly troubling. An example of this can been seen in New York City, which reported that in the two months after the beginning of the shutdown, vaccinations for children older than two declined 91%. In August, a national study by Orlando Health found that two in three parents were afraid to take their children in for vaccinations – even though 84% of those parents believe vaccines are necessary to protect their children from a host of diseases.
Now, as the flu season overlaps with COVID-19, it is especially important that all patients and parents make vaccinations a priority. Even though we are rightly focused on the threat the COVID-19 pandemic poses, we cannot lay down our weapons in the fight against other vaccine-preventable diseases. When we keep our immunizations up to date and remind our friends and family to do the same, we not only help protect ourselves, but those we love.
Celebrate National PA Week this year by getting your flu shot and bringing yourself or your child up to do date on routine vaccinations. To learn how to find vaccine records for yourself or your child, and determine if they’re up-to-date, visit the CDC’s resource pages.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of bioMérieux, Inc.