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The Importance of Encouraging Adult Vaccination This Fall

September 14, 2012
As National Immunization Awareness Month ends and flu season approaches, many adults around the country are making plans to get their annual influenza vaccine.  In recent years, awareness of the need for influenza vaccination among adults has increased, however, immunization rates among US adults to prevent other vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) is still well below current public health goals.  While getting an influenza vaccine is a great first step, we still have a long way to go in creating adequate awareness about recommended vaccines to protect against all adult VPDs.

[caption id="attachment_9096" align="alignright" width="115" caption="William Schaffner, MD"]William Schaffner[/caption]

VPDs kill over 50,000 US adults every year— more than either breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, or motor vehicle traffic accidents. Just two of these (influenza and pneumococcal disease) cost society tens of billions of dollars each year in the cost of hospitalizations, treatments, and lost productivity. More than 27,000 US cases of pertussis (whooping cough) were reported in 2010, over 6,600 of which were in adults, with an estimated cost of nearly $2,500 per adult case. Shingles affects approximately one million individuals each year and one in three US adults will get shingles in their lifetime with an estimated annual cost of over $550 million on medical spending related to shingles. As the population ages, the number of cases is expected to increase — about 98 percent of US adults have had chickenpox and are, therefore, at risk for shingles. All of these costs could be considerable reduced if all US adults were fully vaccinated.

CAIIn a proactive effort to achieve this vision, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) launched the Campaign for Adult Immunization as a unified effort to encourage and enable all US adults to become fully immunized according to recommended schedules. In partnership with nationally renowned medical experts and national health organizations, the Campaign acts as an umbrella organization—aggregating expert opinions, best practices, and resources—leading national stakeholders interested in increasing adult immunization rates through a united and powerful voice. Through policy initiatives and increased public awareness of VPDs and the importance of immunization as a preventative measure, the Campaign advocates for strategies to increase awareness of, and access to, recommended adult vaccines.

The Campaign operates under the guidance of an Advisory Board composed of leading vaccine experts that I am honored to chair. The following individuals also serve on the Board:

  • Paul A. Offit, MD, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia;

  • Gregory A. Poland, MD, Mary Lowell Leary Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, and director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group;

  • Laura E. Riley, MD, associate professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and director of Obstetrics and Gynecology Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital;

  • Litjen (L.J.) Tan, MS, PhD, director of Infectious Disease, Immunology and Molecular Medicine at American Medical Association; and

  • Deborah L. Wexler, MD, executive director and founder of Immunization Action Coalition.

With the expertise of these thought leaders and close partnerships with leading public health, patient, and healthcare provider advocates, including BIO, the Campaign will drive adults around the country to get vaccinated.

NFID has already developed a wide range of tools and resources highlighting the importance of vaccination across the lifespan, including a Call to Action, 10 Reasons to Be Vaccinated, and Real Stories, Real People, demonstrating the very real impact of VPDs.

To view the resources and to learn more about the Campaign, visit Together, we can protect US adults from deadly diseases.

Listen to a podcast with William Schaffner, MD.

William Schaffner, MD, is the immediate past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.