BETHESDA, MD 29 January 2013—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today announced the release of the annual update to the adult immunization schedule as agency officials issued a plea to improve overall vaccination rates for adults.
Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said adults need to think of more than just influenza vaccination when considering their preventive health care.
"We also want adults to be aware that there are other vaccines that protect them against serious diseases, such as whooping cough and shingles," he said. "Far too few adults are being vaccinated against these important diseases, and we need to do more."
According to the January 29 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, (PDF) 12.5% of adults 19–4 years of age reported that they had been vaccinated within the past six years with a vaccine that included a pertussis, or whooping cough, component. About 16% reported ever being vaccinated against shingles.
The report analyzed National Health Information Survey data from 2011, the most recent year for which CDC has complete vaccination data. The report describes vaccine coverage for pneumococcal disease, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, herpes zoster, and human papillomavirus.
Carolyn Bridges, associate director for adult immunization at CDC and one of the authors of the report, said adult vaccination rates overall are low.
"We have made little progress in improving adult coverage from 2010 to 2011, and racial and ethnic disparities in coverage remain," she said.
An editorial note in the report recommends, among other things, the use of standing orders to boost vaccination rates.
"We know that the use of standing orders programs really does work to increase vaccination, and having those systems in place in provider offices so that vaccine assessment is routinely done for each visit is really critical so you don't miss opportunities for vaccination," Bridges said.
But she said challenges exist to expanding standing orders beyond influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations for adults.
"Medicare covers mostly flu and pneumococcal vaccine, and tetanus vaccine, [and] hepatitis B vaccine for a high-risk person," Bridges said. "So use of a standing order can be a little bit more complicated, depending on the insurance."
Koh tied the use of standing orders to a larger effort to improve the way health care is delivered in the United States.
"If you can build a better system across the country, . . . we will advance prevention and advance public health in a very substantial way," he said.