A majority of adults in the U.S. went unvaccinated for one or more vaccine-preventable diseases during the 2017-2018 season, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) .
Although COVID-19 vaccination continues to be a priority, the report indicates adults often missed routine recommended vaccines that provide protection against influenza, pneumonia, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis and even shingles, depending on the patient’s age.
The CDC recommends vaccines for adults based on several factors, including their age, medical problems and previous vaccination history in order to prevent certain infectious diseases. For example, most people over 50 often meet criteria for a shingles vaccine, whereas a pneumonia vaccine is often given to younger patients who may have chronic lung conditions, such as asthma. In both these cases, the patients may be unaware of their eligibility for these vaccines.
Jan. 23, 2020: A patient receives an influenza vaccine in Mesquite, Texas. ( (AP Photo/LM Otero, File))
The CDC conducted a cross-sectional national survey of the population from August 2017 to June 2018 for influenza vaccination and from January-December 2018 for pneumococcal, zoster, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and HPV vaccines.
Findings indicated low uptake among all age groups with few adults ages 19 or older receiving all age-appropriate vaccines. Even among adults with higher vaccination rates who reported having a usual place for healthcare, the results revealed missed opportunities in healthcare settings for vaccinations, regardless of healthcare coverage.
Among adults who had even 10 or more physician contacts in the previous year, 20% to about 88% reported they hadn’t received their recommended shots. Also, less than half of the U.S. population was vaccinated for influenza, according to the report.
Dr. L.J Tan, chief policy and partnerships officer of the Immunization Action Coalition, recently told the American Medical Association that the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the problem.
When children go see the doctor, immunizations are a priority in the office visit. However, “adults generally work on acute care [needs],” he said. “You go in when something happens. As a result, the vaccines get lost in the shuffle.”
He estimated that 50,000 adults died annually from vaccine preventable diseases before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC recommends for that healthcare providers review patients’ vaccination status at every visit, and recommend age-appropriate vaccinations based on current guidelines.
One way to boost vaccine uptake, according to the American Medical Association, is to maximize electronic health care records. The electronic health record can alert any health care professional that a vaccine is due and then it can be scheduled before the visit is over, if the patient is willing. Patient portals can also notify patients when vaccinations are due while patients can simultaneously receive education on why the vaccine is important to prevent that particular infectious disease.
“We need to continue to emphasize that the value is not just for pediatric populations,” Tan said. “It’s a lifespan value.”