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Adults Fail to Comply With Vaccination Schedules

June 09, 2011 07:00 AM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
The low percentage of adults that receive their recommended vaccines worries doctors, and highlights the potentially grave dangers of preventable diseases.

’Tis the Vaccination Season

In the wake of vaccination campaigns against swine flu and seasonal flus, the fact that many American adults “haven't received vaccinations for at least half a dozen other preventable diseases” came to light, Laura Landro reported for The Wall Street Journal.

As Landro explains, although bacterial pneumonia is the most dangerous complication arising from the flu, only one in four risk-prone adults under 65 years of age has been vaccinated against invasive pneumococcal disease, which leads to bacterial pneumonia. In addition, the long-term consequences of diseases such as meningitis, hepatitis and shingles add more than $10 billion to national health care costs every year.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released in July 2009, revealed that American adults have very low compliance rates with recommended vaccinations.

The 2008 National Health Interview Survey, which included data on about 22,000 adults, discovered that “[f]ewer than 7% of adults over 60 get the shingles vaccine, and just 11% of women ages 19 to 26 receive HPV vaccinations,” MedPage Today reported. Similarly, “about 9% of people ages 19 to 49 have had a hepatitis A vaccination, and about 32% in the same age group have received at least three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine.”

Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, expressed her disappointment at the study findings, and suggested that a lack of a culture of prevention and the high costs of medication may be the main reasons behind it. “As a culture, we really don't think about prevention first. We think about getting treated when we're really sick, but not all the steps we can take in advance,” she told MedPage Today.

Gregory A. Poland, director of the vaccine-research group at Mayo Clinic, explains that a lack of information is an important factor contributing to this problem. “Vaccines have not been front and center in our national efforts for disease prevention as they should be,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “It's a collusion of ignorance—patients don't know to ask about vaccines, and physicians often don't have good mechanisms to screen patients and determine which vaccines they need.”

Related Topic: Nonvaccination linked to resurgence of childhood illnesses

As of May 2008, more than 70 cases of measles, a potentially deadly illness, were confirmed in the United States after public health officials had claimed the disease was eliminated in 2000. One of the possible causes is that some parents don't want to get their children vaccinated for measles, fearing the vaccinations can cause autism. In 2008, public health officials also reported outbreaks of mumps and pertussis in pockets around the country. Both conditions can be prevented with vaccines.

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