Today the nonprofit Alliance for Aging Research released a white paper, Our Best Shot: Expanding Prevention through Vaccination in Older Adults, that provides a comprehensive overview of the factors that drive vaccination underutilization in seniors and offers recommendations on how industry, government, and health care experts can improve patient compliance.
Although influenza, pneumococcal, tetanus, and shingles vaccines are routinely recommended for older adults, are cost-effective, are covered to varying degrees by health insurance, and prevent conditions that have relatively high incidence rates and disease burdens, vaccination rates among older adults are much lower than current targets set by the U.S. government's Healthy People 2020 Initiative.
This magnifies a serious problem that underutilization of vaccines presents to the U.S. health care system when viewed through statistics. Each year between five and 10 million Americans acquire pneumonia, 35 to 50 million are afflicted with influenza, and one million get singles. Older Americans are much more likely to get these infections and to suffer from complications and death. The death rate from pneumonia and influenza combined is close to 130 times higher in people ages 85 and older as compared to people ages 45 to 54.
"Vaccinations are available for many of the most common and deadly infectious diseases in older Americans and can save countless lives and health care dollars," says Susan Peschin, MHS, president and CEO of the Alliance. "Unfortunately, vaccination rates in seniors fall far short of target rates recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We think that there is a lot of low-hanging fruit--in promotion of existing preventive health services, access and administration policies, and financial strategies--that would increase utilization and improve public health for older adults. We need to raise the level of importance of immunization among seniors to the level we currently have for children, and then we need to make some basic changes to support it."
The white paper, which was authored by Richard Manning, Ph.D., partner, Bates White Economic Consulting, LLC, reviews vaccination levels, trends and targets, incidence rates, relevant health insurance coverage policies, and the cost effectiveness literature and other reports that have evaluated vaccine utilization in the older adult population. It then offers analysis of the various barriers that keep older adults from receiving vaccinations, including lack of access to education, financial resources, adequate health care and other factors. It also gives recommendations in three specific areas: information, health care and administrative, and financial.
The white paper was created with support from GlaxoSmithKline and Merck.
About the Alliance for Aging Research
The Alliance for Aging Research is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the pace of scientific discoveries and their application in order to vastly improve the universal human experience of aging and health. The Alliance was founded in 1986 in Washington, D.C., and has since become a valued advocacy organization and a respected influential voice with policymakers. Visit http://www.agingresearch.org for more information.