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CDC: Adult Vaccination Rates Too Low

Only 2% of Eligible Adults Have Had Shingles Vaccine
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 23, 2008 -- Far too few adults in the United States are being vaccinated against serious and even deadly diseases, such as the flu, pneumonia, shingles, and cervical cancer, new data from the CDC confirms.

Findings from a nationwide survey of adults revealed that few Americans can name more than one or two of the 10 vaccines now recommended for adults.

Vaccination rates for the most widely known vaccinations fell far short of target goals, and only a small percentage of the eligible adult population received some of the less-established immunizations.

"These (vaccine) coverage estimates suggest that we are at the infancy of developing the strong adult immunization system that we would like to have," U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Anne Schuchat, MD, said at a Wednesday news conference. "We obviously have a lot more work to do, and it involves literally rolling up our sleeves."

The news conference was held by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).

(Are you due for any immunizations? Do you know for sure? Tell us about it on the Men’s Health: Man to Man and Women’s Health: Friends Talking message boards.)

Vaccination Goals Not Being Met

The government's goal is to vaccinate at least 90% of people 65 and over against the flu and pneumococcal disease, but coverage estimates in this age group as of last summer were just 69% and 66%, respectively.

Kristin L. Nichol, MD, MPH, of the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, made it clear that it is not too late for people to get vaccinated against the flu this year because flu season generally peaks in February.

Flu shots are recommended for all adults aged 50 and over, for children between the ages of six months and 5 years, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, and those who come in contact with those who are at high risk for flu complications.

"This year we have more influenza vaccine than ever before," she said. "And we still have months of influenza activity in front of us."

Other highlights from the survey included:

  • A shingles vaccine licensed in the spring of 2006 is recommended for adults aged 60 and over. But after being available for one year, only about 2% of eligible adults appear to have been vaccinated.
  • Only about 2% of people surveyed also reported immunization with a new combination vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough, recommended for adults aged 18 to 64.
  • The newly licensed human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer, is also not being widely used. The three-dose vaccine series is recommended for females aged 26 and under, but only about 10% of 18- to 26-year-olds surveyed reported having had at least one dose of the vaccine.
  • Only 44% of adults over 65 reported receiving a tetanus shot during the previous decade.
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