Too Few American Adults Getting Needed Vaccinations: CDC

THURSDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) — Each year, some 45,000 Americans die from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccines, health officials said Thursday.

Despite this, the number of American adults who get needed vaccines remains low, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There were some modest increases in coverage, but for very few vaccines,” said Dr. Carolyn B. Bridges, associate director of adult immunization at the CDC and co-author of the report. “Coverage is much lower than we would like to see it.”

The data was published in the Feb. 3 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

According to the report, 2010 (the latest year covered by the report) saw only a small increase in the rate of uptake for just three vaccines.

The rate of the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccination increased 1.6 percent, to 8.2 percent. Tdap includes protection against pertussis, also known as whooping cough. Among whites aged 60 and older, use of a vaccine that protects against shingles rose more than 5 percent to 16.6 percent.

Among women aged 19-26, those who got at least one dose of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which protects against about 70 percent of all cervical cancers, increased 3.6 percentage points, to 20.7 percent, the researchers noted.

For other vaccines, rates remained basically the same. For example, among high-risk adults aged 19 to 64, only 18.5 percent received a vaccine that protects against pneumonia. For adults 65 and older, the rate was close to 60 percent overall.

In 2010, the adult vaccination rate for hepatitis A was 10.7 percent and for hepatitis B the vaccination rate was 42 percent, which is about the same as the 2009 estimate, the researchers reported.

Vaccine rates probably remain low for several reasons, Bridges said. “There is not enough information about which vaccines are needed for adults and unlike children, who have regularly scheduled doctors’ visits for vaccines, this is not the case for adults,” she noted.

Also, vaccines schedules for adults are more complicated, Bridges explained. “They are not just based on age, like most of the pediatric vaccines. Adult vaccines are recommended only for a certain age or if you have a high-risk medical condition or certain occupation or travel. So, it’s a little bit complicated.”

Some adults may have also missed vaccines during childhood, like the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and should be vaccinated now, Bridges said.

According to the CDC, ways to improve the rate of adult vaccinations include education, better access to vaccines, physician reminders and recall systems.

More information

For more on adult vaccinations, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.