TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Thousands die annually in U.S. from vaccine-preventable diseases

Approximately 30,000 people on average die of vaccine preventable illnesses in the U.S. annually, the University of Colorado at Denver said on Tuesday.

Researchers at the university's School of Medicine found that even though adults make up 95 percent of individuals who die annually from vaccine preventable diseases, rates for vaccination remain stubbornly low. The team recently published the results of the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Our study suggests that missed opportunities for adult vaccination are common because vaccination status is not being assessed at every (physician's) visit, which is admittedly an ambitious goal," Laura Hurley, the lead author of the study, said. "Also, most physicians are not stocking all recommended vaccines."

Recent estimates show that 62 to 65 percent of adults aged 65 and older received a pneumococcal or influenza vaccine respectively. Approximately 20 percent of high-risk adults between the ages of 19 and 64 received a pneumococcal vaccine and 16 percent of adults 60 and older received a shingles vaccine.

The study found that doctors encountered barriers to stocking vaccines, including difficulty getting reimbursed by insurance, issues coordinating vaccine records and cost.

"Physicians reported a variety of barriers to vaccine stocking and administration but financial barriers dominated the list," the authors said. "Physicians in smaller, private practice often assume more risks from stocking expensive vaccine inventories and may be particularly affected by these financial barriers."

The study recommends that doctors use Immunization Information Services to keep track of the vaccination status of their patients. The authors noted the Affordable Care Act addresses the cost barrier to vaccination for privately insured patients by requiring insurers to cover recommended vaccines with no co-pay when delivered by in-network providers.

"I feel we need to take a more systematic approach to this issue," Hurley said. "As the population ages this could easily grow into a more serious public health issue."