Sunday, March 1, 2015


Nearly 50,000 adult Americans die each year from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccines, according to a report released this month.

“Adult Immunization: Shots to Save Lives,” a report prepared jointly by the Trust for America’s Health, the Infectious Disease Society of America and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, tracked illnesses and adult vaccination rates in each state.

“This country does not have an effective strategy for immunizing adults against infectious diseases,” said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, as the report was being released. The report can be read at

“Thousands of lives could be saved each year if we could increase the number of adults who receive routine and recommended vaccinations. We need a national strategy to make vaccines a regular part of medical care and to educate Americans about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines,” Levi said.

Researchers noted that the systems in place to vaccinate America’s children are “first rate.” But too often adults fall through the cracks. Adults may not have access to medical care, or are not aware of the need to be vaccinated.

Community health officials are confirming this shortcoming in adult vaccinations. Dr. Claudia Jonah, the health officer in Kern County, Calif., agreed that more needs to be done to vaccinate adults.

Noting the demand among adults in her rural Central California county for H1N1 (swine flu) vaccinations, Jonah said vaccination rates will increase when a case is made for the need.

“This is a very important discussion people should be having with their doctors,” she said, pointing out that the Kern County Health Department primarily is called upon to vaccinate adults who plan to travel. The vaccination records of these adults and the risks found in countries they plan to visit are evaluated, and shots administered.

According to Jonah, adults should be vaccinated for pneumonia, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, and seasonal flu. Tetanus and diphtheria require booster shots. If an adult has received the complete polio series as a child, no booster shots are required.

In many cases, young women also will be urged to receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, she said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the failure of American adults to be vaccinated adds about $10 billion annually to the cost of health care.

States require children to be vaccinated before they can enroll in school. Veterinarians send out reminder cards to have dogs and cats vaccinated to be licensed. But little is done to alert adults to the need to be vaccinated.

“We give a lot of attention to protecting our children,” said Jonah. “More needs to be done for adults.”

This article by Dianne Hardisty appeared first in The Bakersfield Californian n Feb. 21, 2010.

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