Vaccination Rates in Older Adults Not Meeting CDC Recommendation

Despite the fact that older adults are more susceptible to complications from vaccine-preventable infections, this group as a whole is not reaching target goals.

Despite the fact that older adults are more susceptible to complications from vaccine-preventable infections, this group as a whole is not reaching target goals.

“Vaccinations are available for many of the most common and deadly infectious diseases in older Americans and can save countless lives and health care dollars,” Susan Peschin, president and CEO of the Alliance for Aging Research which conducted the analysis, said in a news release.

Influenza, pneumonia, and shingles are just some of the illnesses that can be prevented through vaccination. Yet each year 35 to 50 million Americans are infected with the flu, five to 10 million with pneumonia, and one million with shingles. Adults ages 85 and older are nearly 130 times more likely to die from influenza or pneumonia than those 45 to 54-years-old.

“Unfortunately, vaccination rates in seniors fall far short of target rates recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC],” Peschin informed.

The CDC warns that adults ages 65 and older are at high risk to develop flu-related complications and recommends they receive two vaccines to prevent pneumonia. The shingles vaccine is approved for those ages 50 and older and the organization advises that individuals ages 60 and older get it.

The US government’s Healthy People 2020 Initiative aims for 90% of adults ages 65 and older to be vaccinated against pneumonia, but in 2008 only 60% had.

Regardless of the suggestions, the Alliance report revealed that the target number of older adults vaccinated against these illnesses are not being met. In 2012, the shingles vaccination rate in Americans over 65-years-old only reached 22%. However, more received the influenza (66%) and pneumonia (60%) vaccinations. Still, these statistics do not meet guidelines.

Current practices to promote health services and policies is one of the challenges, Peschin explained. Increasing awareness and informing the public can help improve vaccination rates.

“We need to raise the level of important of immunization among seniors to the level we currently have for children, and then we need to make some basic changes to support it,” Peschin concluded.