Adult non-flu vaccination levels 'unacceptably low,' CDC says

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday that vaccination coverage levels in U.S. adults were “unacceptably low,” and that public health workers need to do more to make sure adults got immunizations to protect them from diseases including whooping cough, shingles and pneumonia.

The team, writing in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, updated statistics on vaccine coverage for  those diseases as well as cervical cancer, hepatitis A and B and other preventable illnesses. 

There were “modest gains” in coverage for the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) and HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccines, said CDC researcher and study co-author Dr. Carolyn Bridges during a phone call with reporters.  Nearly 13% of people 19 to 64 years old reported receiving a Tdap vaccine in 2011, which was an increase of almost four percentage points from the previous year, she said; the number of adults living with an infant under a year old who received the vaccine was up around 11 points to 22%. Pertussis is particularly dangerous in infants.   

Regarding HPV vaccination, adult women are advised to complete a series of three injections by age 26.  Thirty percent of women ages 19 to 26 had received one or more doses of that vaccine in 2011, up from 21% in 2010. (In 2011, health officials added men up to the age of 21 to the list of people advised to get the vaccine, but the effects of that change aren’t available in the current data, which was collected in the 2011 National Health Interview Survey.)

Otherwise, vaccination coverage was similar to that in 2010, the team wrote.

During the phone call with reporters, Bridges acknowledged that many adults might be confused about what vaccines they need; schedules vary depending on the vaccine and on a patient’s individual risk.  She urged those people to ask their healthcare provider if they were due for any shots.  Patients can also consult this page at the CDC website and take a quiz to determine if they’re due for any immunizations.

The MMWR report did not include statistics on influenza vaccination, which is recommended every year for all Americans 6 months and older.  The CDC released an estimate of flu immunization levels for the early portion of this season in December.

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