Reviewing the CDC’s Seven-Step Vaccine Administration Guidelines


Patients and providers alike benefit from staying up-to-date with vaccines. Often, the focus is on what patients can do; today, we turn our attention to clinicians. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that clinicians periodically review the seven steps to effective vaccine administration as they play a significant role in vaccine effectiveness. For some, these recommendations may feel redundant, but they are useful to revisit and can serve as a practical guide to share with others.

1. Review Immunization History

The first step in administering vaccines is determining what vaccinations patients have or have not already received. According to the CDC, every patient visit should prompt a review of a patient’s immunization history.

2. Assess for Needed Immunizations

After reviewing a patient’s history, clinicians should then reconcile their records against the CDC-recommended schedule to identify which vaccines a patient needs at their visit and in the near future. This includes booster doses of vaccines that patients skip more often compared to initial doses. The CDC has built a smartphone app with the immunization schedules for children, adults and more, that it updates to help ensure providers have the latest schedule. 

3. Screen for Contraindications and Precautions

At each visit, the CDC recommends clinicians check the health status or conditions of the patient to help prevent any adverse reactions. The CDC’s schedule app also conveniently provides a table of the agency’s outlined contraindications and precautions. 

4. Educate the Patient

Communication with patients is key to ensuring a positive immunization experience. Research has shown that a clear recommendation in communication from a clinician can be effective in increasing vaccine uptake. Educating patients can include speaking with them about the safety of vaccine manufacturing, explaining disease protection and added benefits, debunking myths, or advising them about new vaccines on the market. 

5. Prepare the Vaccine(s)

Vaccine preparation starts before the patient visit with proper storage and management. In the transfer from vial to syringe, the CDC recommends the clinician that will be administering the vaccine use aseptic technique to ensure that the integrity of the vaccine is not compromised. Additionally, the agency has outlined seven specific preparation steps

6. Administer the Vaccine(s)

Different vaccines have different administration sites and routes. The CDC recommends that clinicians follow the instructions outlined on the manufacturer’s packaging for best use. Additionally, pain management techniques can be employed with needle-shy patients to facilitate a positive vaccine experience. 

7. Document the Vaccine(s)

This step is one of the most important to continued patient health. Proper documentation ensures that at the next patient visit the clinician can begin again at step one with the correct information. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services promotes certified electronic health record (EHR) systems as just one way to properly document and review immunization history. The CDC outlines some basic requirements and points clinicians to their state or local immunization department for more information.  

Continuing education for vaccine administration and other topics for providers is key to sustained success in patient care and practice management. For further review, the CDC has provided a free Vaccine Administration e-Learn course that clinicians can take online, at their own pace, that is also eligible for required continuing education credits.