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.
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