Education Critical for Increasing Immunizations Among the Elderly

July 11th 2018
Jeannette Y Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP

Researchers found that educating patients about immunizations likely influences immunization rates positively—that is, increase community demand—among the elderly.

It’s often difficult to entice older people into being vaccinated. Age alone increases risk for a number of immunization-preventable diseases, and it’s a national priority to try to increase vaccination rates among the elderly.

A new Cochrane Collaboration looks at how access, providers, systems, and societal interventions affect the uptake of influenza vaccine in people aged 60 years or older. This study looked specifically at community-dwelling elderly. It summarized the results of 61 randomized controlled trials that covered more than 1 million study subjects. All study subjects lived in high-income countries.

These researchers found that educating patients about immunizations likely influences immunization rates positively—that is, increase community demand—among the elderly. Simply talking about vaccines that the CDC recommends for older individuals, and asking elderly patients if they have questions can increase the likelihood that an individual will receive a vaccination. Some health care providers need to talk to patients 2 or 3 times before they are willing to be vaccinated.

Among the most effective interventions to increase access were home visits, client group clinic visits, and offers of free vaccinations. When making a visit to review medications with community-based clients, healthcare providers should always review the immunization record. Forming a liaison with local senior centers can often increase immunization rates as well.

Home visits were identified as the most effective means by which healthcare professionals increased immunization rates. While electronic reminders were considered moderately to highly effective, postcards and posters were not considered effective.

Vaccines that are most important among elderly patients include annual influenza shots, preferably before November of each year. Patients also need to doses of pneumococcal vaccine, and should also be encouraged to be immunized to prevent shingles.

Reference

Thomas R, Lorenzetti DL. Interventions to increase influenza vaccination rates of those 60 years and older in the community. ISSN: 1361-6137 , 1469-493X; DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005188.pub4

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