Adult Immunization

Millions of adults living in the U.S. are not up to date on their needed immunizations, leaving them at risk for preventable illnesses and even death, according to a new report released by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), the Infectious Diseases Society and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

According to the report, key reasons for the low immunization rates include a lack of knowledge about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, limited access to immunization and limited research and development of new vaccines in the United States.

“We need a national strategy to make vaccines a regular part of medical care and to educate Americans about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines,” said Jeffrey Levi, Ph.D., Executive Director of TFAH.

Significant findings in the report, Adult Immunization: Shots to Save Lives, include:

  • 40,000 to 50,000 adults die annually from vaccine-preventable illnesses.
  • The health care burden of adult vaccine-preventable diseases is about $10 billion annually.
  • Only 36.1 percent of adults were vaccinated against seasonal flu in 2008.
  • 33 percent of adults age 65 and older have not been vaccinated against pneumonia, a potential complication of seasonal flu.
  • Only 2 percent of eligible adults have been vaccinated against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus.

The report offers recommendations to improve the adult immunization rate, including several strategies for the public health community:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as state and local health departments, should receive increased resources to create education programs about adult vaccinations.
  • Health providers should set an example by complying with recommended vaccinations.
  • The National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC should receive increased resources for vaccine research and development.

The CDC’s National Immunization Program offers an interactive vaccine scheduler health departments may find valuable in their efforts to educate providers and communities about adult immunizations. Find the scheduler at