TFAH says adult immunization rates are "abysmal"

Trust for America's Health, a non-profit organization focused on disease prevention, said on Thursday that the recently released adult immunization rates for 2012 are abysmal and a new strategy is needed to increase rates.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2012, only 14 percent of adults 19 and older received the Tdap vaccination, 20 percent of adults 60 and older received the shingles vaccination and 34.5 percent of women aged 19 to 26 years old received the human papillomavirus vaccine. TFAH said the rates were far below national goals.

"The current rates are truly abysmal and we need to radically rethink how we can increase rates," Jeffrey Levi, the executive director of TFAH, said. "Strategies that can make a difference include ensuring adults actually receive expanded preventive services covered under the (Affordable Care Act), growing the use of electronic health records to track when adults are due for recommended shots, and improving coverage for all Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries."

Tdap vaccination protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. There were more than 48,000 cases of whooping cough in the U.S. in 2012. According to the CDC, this was the highest incidence of the disease reported since 1955.

TFAH said low vaccination rates leave millions of Americans vulnerable to preventable diseases and result in avoidable healthcare costs.

"Some of the greatest public health successes of the past century - including the worldwide eradication of smallpox and the virtual elimination of polio, measles and rubella in the United States - are because of successful vaccination programs," Levi said. "We know that vaccines are safe and save lives. Yet millions do not get routine immunizations and tens of thousands die each year as a result."

In December, Trust For America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a report called "Outbreaks: Protecting Americans from Infectious Diseases." The report contained several recommendations that could improve adult immunization rates, including funding and incentivizing vaccine research, improving and modernizing surveillance and diagnostics, ensuring first dollar coverage of all recommended vaccines under Medicare, expanding support for immunization programs and increasing public education about the safety and importance of vaccines.