“Best Shot” White Paper Explores Challenges of Senior Citizen Vaccination

by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor

If you thought vaccines were just for babies, think again. A new white paper from the Alliance for Aging Research reminds readers that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends influenza, pneumococcal, tetanus and shingles vaccines for most senior citizens. Yet many older Americans fail to take the recommended precautions. The number of relevant patients who receive the vaccines hovers between 50 and 70 percent, well below national targets.

In “Our Best Shot: Expanding Prevention through Vaccination in Older Adults,” authors offer analysis of data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, which has collected information on health topics through personal interviews since 1957. In surveying information on vaccines and older Americans, researchers found that health status and financial factors don’t have a clear, consistent correlation with vaccination – but information factors do.

Therefore, the authors recommend expanded education tailored toward adult patients, such as including vaccination counseling in Medicare wellness visits and mailing pamphlets to patients along with their Medicare ID cards. The authors also suggest broader awareness efforts, such as using Medicare Open Enrollment and Grandparents Day to educate on the importance of vaccination.

The paper’s results revealed that women are less likely than men to receive the tetanus vaccine but more likely than men to receive the other recommended vaccines. Thus, the paper’s authors suggest several strategies for making vaccinations more accessible, such as:

  • Encouraging more states to allow pharmacists to administer tetanus vaccines
  • Encouraging the use of electronic records systems that incorporate patients’ vaccination history into clinical workflows
  • Requiring health care providers to get patients’ vaccination history and discuss with them during their “Welcome to Medicare Preventative Visit.”

The alliance released the paper with a July 29 Capitol Hill briefing that featured:

  • Susan Peschin, MHS, President & CEO, Alliance for Aging Research
  • Fred Selck, Ph.D., Economist, Bates White Economic Consulting and Adjunct Member at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School
  • Ellie Dehoney, Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy, Research!America
  • Bruce G. Gellin, M.D., MPH, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health
    Director, National Vaccine Program Office, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition to outlining the paper’s findings and recommendations, the briefing provided information on initiatives to increase vaccination use in older adults, including the National Adult Immunization Plan.

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