February 4, 2013
Not nearly enough U.S. adults are getting recommended vaccines, health officials say. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the new estimates. They are based on a national survey taken in 2011. Adult vaccines protect those who get them. They also help to protect people's close contacts, including children. The pneumococcal vaccine protects against some forms of pneumonia, meningitis and blood infections. It's recommended for people ages 65 and older. About 62% had received this vaccine, the CDC said. The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Vaccination rates were up in 2011. But still only 13% of adults had ever received this shot. Another type of tetanus shot is also given, but it does not protect against whooping cough. Cases of whooping cough have greatly increased in recent years. Only 36% of adults at high risk for hepatitis B have been vaccinated, the CDC said. The rate for hepatitis A is just 13%. The shingles virus is recommended for adults ages 60 and older. But only about 16% have received it, the CDC said. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published the report January 31. HealthDay News wrote about it.
By Henry H. Bernstein, D.O.
Harvard Medical School
What Is the Doctor's Reaction?
Many people think vaccines are just for babies, young children and teens. Think again! Adults need vaccines, too.
Vaccines protect adults from serious diseases. When adults are protected, they don't get sick. In turn, all the children around adults are less likely to get sick, too.
Some adults get all the vaccines they need. There also are many adults who:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just published data on how many adults received their recommended vaccines in 2011. The information comes from a national adult health survey.
The results were not good. Vaccination rates for adults were well below where they should be. Rates were:
Compared with 2010, more women got the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine in 2011. Plus, there was a slight increase in the number of adults under 65 who received the Tdap vaccine. This shot protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). But there was little or no improvement in other vaccination rates.
Major improvements in vaccination rates are needed to keep adults healthy. To be sure that more adults get all the vaccines they need, the study authors suggest that doctors:
It is important that adults be vaccinated because:
What Changes Can I Make Now?
Check to be sure you are up to date with all of your vaccines:
As parents, we do our best to protect our children. So it is especially important that adults receive all of their vaccines. By vaccinating all close family members, we also can reduce a child's exposure to disease. This is called "cocooning."
Cocooning has been used largely to protect newborns and young infants from whooping cough (pertussis). Infants have high rates of serious disease and death from pertussis. It is critically important that parents and all caregivers get the Tdap vaccine. This is the best way to protect the youngest babies from this serious disease.
The CDC now recommends that all women get the Tdap vaccine with each pregnancy. Vaccinating women while pregnant can help protect their newborns during the first several months of life, until they are old enough to get the pertussis vaccine themselves.
What Can I Expect Looking to the Future?
Researchers will continue to monitor adult vaccination rates. They will also look for ways to increase the number of adults who receive their recommended vaccines.
Your child's pediatrician also may ask you if you have received your vaccinations. Some pediatricians are beginning to offer vaccines in the office to the parents of their patients.
You can find more information on the CDC's adult vaccinations page.