Many Adults Skipping Their Shots

Tetanus and diphtheria, shingles and human papillomavirus vaccination rates increased slightly, but overall coverage remained low

(RxWiki News) Despite health officials' efforts to raise public awareness about the potential health benefits of vaccines, many adults aren't going in to get their shots.

That's the main finding of a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This report found that 2013 vaccination rates increased slightly for a few diseases — tetanus and diphtheria, shingles and human papillomavirus (HPV) — but remained low overall.

"Vaccinations are recommended throughout life to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases ... Adult vaccination coverage, however, remains low for most routinely recommended vaccines," wrote the authors of this report, led by Lauri E. Markowitz, MD, of the CDC in Atlanta.

Vaccination coverage was so low, in fact, that Dr. Markowitz and team called for increased efforts by doctors to inform adult patients about vaccines and their benefits.

These researchers said vaccines can prevent a host of diseases. Most vaccines work by giving a patient a deadened or inactive version of a virus. The body then produces an immune response to that virus, but the patient doesn't get sick. From then on, the patient's body is equipped to fight off that virus.

Such is the case with the vaccine for HPV. HPV is a type of virus that causes warts. Some types of HPV have been tied to cervical cancer in women (cancer of the passage between the uterus and the vagina). HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, and the vaccine can prevent many types of it, but many women did not get the vaccine.

In 2013, 36.9 percent of women between the ages of 19 and 26 got the HPV vaccine, Dr. Markowitz and team found. This was a small increase from 2012, but it still wasn't high enough, these researchers wrote.

Vaccination rates for hepatitis B, a virus that inflames the liver, decreased by 2.1 percent from 2012 to 2013. Only 25 percent of adults 19 and older received this vaccine, Dr. Markowitz and colleagues found. Hepatitis B increases patients' risk of liver failure, cancer of the liver and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).

Many professional medical bodies, such as the CDC and World Health Organization, support vaccines to prevent disease.

This report was published Feb. 6 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 5, 2015