30,000 Adults Die from Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Each Year

NeedlesAdults account for 95 percent of individuals who die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Yet vaccination rates among adults remain “stubbornly low,” warns a new study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

Led by Dr. Laura Hurley, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado (CU) School of Medicine, the study notes that 30,000 individuals die from vaccine-preventable diseases each year in the United States, the majority of whom are adults.

Based on the results of the study, Dr. Hurley comments on the low vaccination rates among adults: “Our study suggests that missed opportunities for adult vaccination are common because vaccination status is not being assessed at every (physician’s) visit, which is admittedly an ambitious goal. Also, most physicians are not stocking all recommended vaccines.”

A healthcare center should check a patient’s vaccination status at every checkup in order to improve adult vaccination rates. The vaccination process can also be made simpler for adults by hospitals. In order to simplify the appointment process for adults, healthcare centers may consider providing a working and after-hours answering service, online portals, and SMS services.

Recent estimates indicate that only 62 to 65 percent of adults aged 65 and older received a pneumococcal or influenza vaccine. Additionally, only 20 percent of high risk adults between the ages of 19 and 64 received a pneumococcal vaccine, and only 16 percent of adults aged 60 and older received a herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a total of 11 vaccines for adults.

Another prominent reason for low adult vaccination rates are financial barriers. Notes the study, “Physicians reported a variety of barriers to vaccine stocking and administration but financial barriers dominated the list. Physicians in smaller, private practice often assume more risks from stocking expensive vaccine inventories and may be particularly affected by these financial barriers.” It wouldn’t be too risky to assume the reason for smaller physician practices may not wish to stock vaccines that may potentially go unused due to financial issues, especially considering most smaller physicians may look to see “which banks off physician mortgage loans?” or similar questions to help themselves and their practices financially.

Many health care providers reported difficulty getting reimbursed by insurance for vaccines. Because of this financial problem, physicians often refer patients to pharmacies or public health facilities for vaccinations. Explains the study, “The most commonly reported reasons for referring patients elsewhere for vaccines included insurance not covering the vaccine.”

Coordination between health care providers also proved a barrier to adult vaccination rates.

Probably if the insurance of the patients had coverage for vaccines, such a scenario wouldn’t have come up. This is why it is important for everyone to Compare Health Insurance plans before signing up for one.

Apparently, low vaccination rates among adults is a serious problem. States Dr. Hurley, “I feel we need to take a more systematic approach to this issue. As the population ages this could easily grow into a more serious public health issue.”

The study offers some suggestions for to reduce the 30,000 deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States annually. One recommendation is using a confidential database called the Immunization Information Systems (IIS) to record vaccines administered by providers in a certain area. Use of the IIS will help health care providers ensure that patients are up-to-date on all recommended vaccines even when a patient sees multiple physicians.

The Affordable Care Act, which requires private insurers to cover the recommended vaccines without co-payments when administered by in-network providers, should also help improve adult vaccination rates by reducing the financial burden.

Conclude the authors of the study: “Improving adult vaccination delivery will require increased use of evidence-based methods for vaccination delivery and concerted efforts to resolve financial barriers, especially for smaller practices and for general internists who see more patients with Medicare Part D.”


Thousands of unvaccinated adults die of preventable diseases:
U.S. physicians’ perspective of adult vaccine delivery:
Vaccine barriers: 30,000 adults die of preventable diseases each year:

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