A new paper examines the underutilization of vaccines in senior adults and offers recommendations to improve compliance.

Although influenza, pneumococcal, tetanus, and shingles vaccines are routinely recommended for older adults, are cost-effective, are covered to varying degrees by health insurance, and prevent conditions that have relatively high incidence rates and disease burdens, vaccination rates among older adults are much lower than current targets set by the US government’s Healthy People 2020 Initiative.

This magnifies a serious problem that underutilization of vaccines presents to the US healthcare system when viewed through statistics. Each year between five and 10 million Americans acquire pneumonia, 35 to 50 million are afflicted with influenza, and one million get singles.

Older Americans are much more likely to get these infections and to suffer from complications and death. The death rate from pneumonia and influenza combined is close to 130 times higher in people ages 85 and older as compared to people ages 45 to 54.

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