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CDC Reveals Adults Are Neglecting Their Vaccines

July 23, 2009 05:30 PM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
A new CDC study found alarmingly low vaccination rates among American adults, which may result from overconfidence in the durability of vaccines received during childhood. 

CDC Disappointed by Low Vaccination Rates

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A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that American adults have very low compliance rates with recommended vaccinations for “preventable infectious diseases,” MedPage Today reports.

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.” 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 the 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.

The failure of adults to comply with recommended vaccination schedules is particularly interesting in light of the swine flu vaccine currently in the works. “Five flu vaccine manufacturers are producing 120 million doses for the 2009-2010 flu season, with a third of that available by Sept. 1 and most of the rest shipped by Nov. 1,” CDC officials have announced, according to the Associated Press.

Background: Do childhood vaccinations provide lifelong immunity?

A parallel study released by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) revealed that most young adults have "alarmingly little awareness" of the risks posed by diseases easily treated with vaccinations, MedPage Today reported.

According to Susan Rehm, medical director for NFID, the effectiveness of childhood vaccination programs is in many ways responsible for the lack of familiarity with vaccines and their benefits during adolescence and young adulthood. “[A]dolescents cross into young adulthood having been extremely well protected against vaccine-preventable diseases and therefore have little or no personal experience with them," she told MedPage Today.

Nevertheless, scientists are still unsure about the durability of many childhood vaccines, speculating that their long-term effects may wear off during adulthood. “I don’t think we know much at all,” Dr. Samuel Katz, coinventor of the measles vaccine and a specialist in pediatric infectious disease at Duke University, told The Canadian Press in 2008.

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.

Reference: Recommended vaccinations; Health Web Guide

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