Observations on life

Senior vaccinations – why not?


Get er done !!

From Kaiser Health News:

Three out of four Americans older than 60 don’t get a shingles vaccine to protect themselves from the virus’ miseries: rashes over the face and body, stinging pain that can last for weeks or months and the threat of blindness.

The shingles vaccine is not the only shot that public health officials are struggling to persuade older Americans to get.

Vaccination rates for children have steadily risen well over 90 percent the past few years, but the rates for older adults getting flu, pneumonia, tetanus or shingles shots – the four most used vaccines among the elderly ‑- have stayed stubbornly flat and trail national goals, according to the latest federal data. That leaves millions of older adults at risk of dying, being hospitalized, or, in the case of shingles, suffering debilitating effects that can last years.

With the fall flu vaccination season starting this month, public health officials say they

Here’s how the challenge measures up for each vaccine:

One in three seniors each year skips the flu vaccine, recommended annually for everyone over 6-months-old. Between 3,000 and 49,000 Americans, primarily older adults, died of flu or related illnesses each flu season for 30 years through 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest estimates. Immunization rates for seniors have been around 65 percent for more than 15 years. The federal government’s goal is 90 percent by 2020.

Four in 10 seniors are not vaccinated for pneumonia. It’s recommended once for people 65 and older who did not have it previously. Pneumonia affects about 900,000 seniors a year. Immunization rates are up only slightly in the past decade.

Nearly half of seniors are not immunized for tetanus. A shot is recommended once every 10 years to prevent a rare but often deadly bacterial condition known as “lockjaw.” Vaccination rates have changed little since 2008.

— The shingles vaccine has the lowest adoption rates by older adults regarding those leading preventives — 76 percent of them had not received it as of 2013, the latest year that data is available. There are an estimated 1 million cases each year in the United States, half among people older than 60. Shingles is caused by a reactivation in the body of the same virus that causes chickenpox. The vaccine, approved in 2006, is recommended once for everyone age 60 and over, regardless whether they had chickenpox. Nearly one out of three people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime.

Medical experts say adult immunizations’ slow growth is linked to other factors too.

The Affordable Care Act requires private insurers to pay 100 percent for all preventive services including vaccines.

Medicare patients don’t get the same deal. Flu and pneumonia shots are free for them because they are covered under Medicare Part B, but vaccinations for shingles and tetanus are covered under Medicare Part D and often require co-payments of $100 or more. [And yet birth control is “free”]

“It makes absolutely no sense,” said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit health policy group.

Another challenge is primary care physicians often don’t store the shingles vaccine in their office because it has a limited shelf life and billing private Medicare prescription drug insurers is complex. Doctors often issue a prescription for the shot and the patient fills it at a pharmacy or health clinic. That extra step deters some people.

“Money becomes a hurdle for patients and providers,” said Dr. Reid Blackwelder, a family doctor in Kingsport, Tenn., and chairman of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Another reason for low adult participation is lack of patient education. “Many adults don’t know what vaccines they should have,” said Wergin, the Nebraska doctor. One tip: The new tetanus vaccine includes a booster for whooping cough, which helps seniors and protects their grandchildren from illness.

KHN’s coverage of aging and long term care issues is supported in part by a grant from The SCAN Foundation.
pgalewitz@kff.org | @philgalewitz

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Categories: Observations on life

4 replies »

  1. I received flu shots every year for 20 years in the USAF and got sick many times. I have not had a shot or the flu in over 20 years. I will not be getting any shots anytime soon. My sister got the flu shot last year and her arm was sore for 6 months she could not raise her arm above her shoulder. I will take my chances, I know for me the side effects are not worth it. $2.35 billion paid to 2810 for side effects of vaccines. How many more could there be if more was known about the true side effects of vaccines. .

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    • I also avoid the flu shot for they are only a guess of the strain that might appear the year after they start make the vaccine. Until I become high risk I will not even consider taking it. Tetanus on the other hand, I had to beg my doctor to order the shot. I do many projects around the home and when I can’t remember when the last time I had the shot and my doctor cannot find it in my records it was time for another shot. I am not sure of having the whooping cough added to tetanus vaccine, if I need a whooping cough vaccine why aren’t public health officials pushing a whooping cough vaccine for seniors.

      As far as the shingles vaccine, I did not even know that this was a problem. I never heard of it nor have any of my older relatives who were born during the time of no chickenpox vaccine so I blame the marketing of the vaccine for trying to create a market. The television ads make it seem like a drug company is trying to sell you something instead of just a plain public service ad. Shingles did not become a problem until 2006 when the vaccine got approved. Now my question is did they make the vaccine to solve a problem or are they marketing a drug because they figured out how to make the vaccine and are now making a market. It would be more trusting if they were government ads. If you search the CDC web site, it is very hard to find a list of the “required” vaccinations, but I finally found a chart for 2015 of recommend vaccines and age groups. Once you do find it there is no listing to take the shingle vaccine but on other parts of the web site it does recommend people over 60 take the vaccine. But then again you will not find the chickenpox vaccine on the list either because it is “varicella” the actual name of the virus.

      The article did bring out a great point, if this was truly a public health issue then Medicare should pay for vaccines or pay for the shots from wherever the public health funds pay for the free flu shots.

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      • Actually I get all my shots at the local Walgreens and don’t pay a cent. There are rare adverse reactions, but widespread vaccination is an overall positive by far.

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