Vaccines Aren't Just for Children

September 22nd 2015

Older adults are lagging behind when it comes to vaccination rates.

ArecentKaiser Health Newsarticle says that older adults are seriously lagging behind when it comes to vaccination rates. The article states that 3 out of 4 Americans over 60 years of age do not get the shingles vaccine. This is a startling statistic, since this age group is the most susceptible to the disease;half of all shingles cases occur in people over 60 years.

Older adults are not just dragging their feet on shingles vaccines. The articles goes on to state, “Vaccination rates for children have steadily risen well over 90% the past few years, but the rates for older adults getting flu, pneumonia, tetanus, or shingles shots—the 4 most used vaccines among the elderly—have stayed stubbornly flat and trail national goals, according to the latest federal data.”

Possible reasons that vaccination rates in older adults have remained flat are effectiveness, cost, and accessibility. Flu and pneumonia vaccines have variable rates of effectiveness; for example, the 2014 flu vaccine, “only reduced an individual’s chances of a serious flu [by about] 19%.” In addition, while the Affordable Care Act requires private insurers to pay 100% for preventive services such as vaccines, Medicare Part B only covers flu and pneumonia shots. Medicare Part D covers vaccinations for shingles and tetanus, but often requires co-payments of $100 or more. Most primary care physicians don’t stock the shingles vaccine due to its short shelf-life, and older adults may not be aware that they can get the vaccine at their local retail-based clinic.

The article says that lack of patient education is another reason for low participation. With their high daily caseload, the retail-based clinician is in a prime position to aid ineducating patients on the importance of vaccinations. By asking about a patient’s vaccination record when ascertaining a patient’s medical history, the clinician will be able to make the appropriate recommendations if vaccinations are missing, and help the patient remain up-to-date. In addition, the clinician will be able to make an impact on the overall lack of patient education on vaccines by opening up a dialogue on the topic to allow the patient to ask questions.

For more information on adult vaccine schedules, please visitcdc.gov.

For more information on vaccine schedules in children, please seeBack-to-School Immunizations.

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