Report Finds Many Adults 65 & Over Are Unvaccinated Against Several Infectious Diseases


A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics has found that too many adults aged 65 and older are missing out on important vaccinations.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) indicates that many adults aged 65 and older are not receiving the recommended vaccinations that help prevent several diseases.

Adults who are 65 and older are at greater risk for developing complications, severe illness, or even dying from conditions such as shingles, influenza, and pneumococcal disease. As individuals age, so do their immune systems, which can weaken and become more susceptible to infections and more serious symptoms associated with them. For example, researchers have estimated that 71% to 85% of flu-related deaths occur in individuals aged 65 and older, while approximately 18,000 adults in the same age group die each year of pneumococcal disease in the United States. In addition, about half of all shingles cases in the country occur in those who are ages 60 and older. Due to this increased risk of infection and the serious side effects, public health officials emphasize the importance of vaccination to prevent such conditions in older adults. For example, officials are now recommending that all adults who are 65 and over receive two doses of the pneumococcal vaccine.

Recently, a report from NCHS Data Briefs examined vaccination rates for influenza, pneumococcal disease, shingles, and tetanus in adults 65 and older. The study looked at 12 months of data collected in 2015 through the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). “We produced this report because vaccination is an important preventive health measure,” said study author Tina Norris, PhD, in a recent interview. “Older adults have greater susceptibility to—and complications from—disease, and so they stand to benefit greatly from vaccinations as a preventive health measure. This study explores how the percentage of adults aged 65 and over, who received these recommended vaccinations, varied by sex, age group, race/ethnicity, and poverty status.”

In the report, the authors detail their key findings, noting that overall, 69% of adults 65 and older had received the influenza vaccine during those 12 months, though men had a slightly higher rate of flu vaccination than women. Furthermore, 71.4% of non-Hispanic white adults had received the flu vaccine, while 56.8% Hispanic adults, and 59.6% non-Hispanic black adults did. Looking at socio-economic factors, 71.7% of those who were not poor had received a flu shot, while 61.6% of adults who were poor received the vaccine.

Overall, vaccination rates were highest for the flu. The study found that overall, 63.6% of adults aged 65 and older had received a pneumococcal vaccine in the past, 56.9% had received a tetanus vaccine in the past 10 years, and just 34.2% have received the shingles vaccine. “I think the take-home message of this report is that many adults aged 65 and over are not receiving recommended vaccinations,” said Dr. Norris of the study’s findings. “For example, two-thirds of adults never had a shingles vaccine, and nearly one-half did not have a tetanus vaccine in the past 10 years. We also see gaps in coverage for all four vaccinations—influenza, pneumococcal, tetanus, and shingles—by sex, age group, race and ethnicity, and poverty status.”

Overall, the report concluded that adults aged 65 and over who were not poor were the most likely to have been vaccinated for influenza, pneumococcal disease, tetanus, and shingles.

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