January 1, 2008

CDC Finds Low Rates of Adult Immunization








Anne Schuchat, MD, FIDSA, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, speaking at an NFID news conference on Jan. 22 in Washington, DC.

New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows low rates of immunization among adults, leaving many at risk for illness and death associated with preventable infectious diseases.

CDC’s National Immunization Survey found only 2.1 percent of adults 18 to 64 years old have received the tetanus-diphtheria-whooping cough vaccine. Immunization to prevent shingles among people 60 and older was only 1.9 percent, while immunization against human papillomavirus (HPV) among women 18 to 26 was around 10 percent. More commonly known vaccines, including influenza and pneumococcal, fell well below the 90 percent national target rates recommended for elderly patients. The data was released at a Jan. 23 news conference. 

Results of a new national survey by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) were also released during the press conference. According to the results, adults cannot name more than one or two vaccine-preventable adult diseases.

Half of the adults surveyed also said they were not concerned about whether another adult member of their families gets a vaccine-preventable disease.

Every year tens of thousands of adults die and hundreds of thousands are hospitalized because they are not properly vaccinated. CDC estimates the cost of this health care burden to be about $10 billion annually. The costs aren’t surprising, since there are more than 1 million shingles cases annually and the number is only expected to grow, according to CDC. More than 6 million new HPV infections occur annually and nearly 10,000 cases of cervical cancer. Pertussis incidences have also risen significantly since their all-time low in 1976. 

Adult immunization is a top priority for IDSA. The Society published principles to strengthen U.S. adult and adolescent immunization coverage in the June 15, 2007 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The IDSA policy principles include:

  • Increasing demand for immunization though public and provider awareness
  • Strengthening the health care systems capacity to deliver vaccines to adults and adolescents
  • Expanding provision of vaccines to adults and adolescents in public and private health insurance programs
  • Promoting adult and adolescent immunization as an important measure of health care quality in managed care and other health care organizations
  • Monitoring and improving the performance of the nation’s vaccine delivery and safety monitoring systems
  • Assuring adequate support for research regarding adult and adolescent vaccine-preventable diseases and vaccines
  • Immunization is recommended for U.S. adults to protect against chickenpox, diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, cervical cancer (HPV), influenza, measles, meningococcal disease, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumococcal disease, rubella, shingles and tetanus.

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