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Adults Fall Short on Vaccinations

Some Adult Vaccination Rates Are Up, but Experts Say There’s Room for Improvement

Why the Low Adult Vaccination Rates? continued...

''Eighty-seven percent of physicians say they discuss vaccines with every patient who comes into their office," Rehm says.

''But when we talked to consumers, nearly half, 47% say they don't recall ever discussing vaccines other than influenza with their health care provider or doctor."

What does work to convince adults to get vaccinated? A recommendation from the doctor, apparently. "Nearly nine in 10 of the adults we surveyed said a strong recommendation for the doctor would motivate them," Rehm says.

A little education may help, too, she says. "Only half of American adults are aware there is a formal schedule of immunizations applicable to them."

Why Get Vaccinations?

Other public health care experts speaking at the conference gave convincing arguments for why adults need to pay more attention to vaccinations.

Jeffrey Cohen, MD, chief of the medical virology section and laboratory of infectious diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told the story of his father, who contracted shingles.

Adults 60 and over are advised to get a shingles vaccination because varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox, can also reactivate decades later to cause herpes zoster, or shingles.

The painful skin eruption is common among older adults and can lead to chronic pain that lasts for months or years.

"When he developed shingles, it profoundly changed his life," Cohen says. Formerly a bank manager, he worked long hours and loved chatting with customers. "After he developed shingles, he developed a long-lasting pain that sometimes occurred even after the rash was resolved. When he recovered a year later, he confided in me that he had actually considered suicide and that he wouldn't wish it on his worst enemy."

Other experts stress the importance of the flu vaccine.

"Many people dismiss the flu as a minor annual nuisance," says Catherine Alicia Georges, RN, EdD, a member of the AARP board of directors and professor and chair of nursing at the Lehman College and Graduate Center at City University of New York who also spoke at the conference.

In actuality, she says, complications from flu contribute to some 200,000 hospitalizations each year, she says. "The flu can be deadly."

Rehm urges adults to take action. "Please don't wait for your health care provider to bring up vaccines," she says. "Ask which vaccines you need."

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