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U.S. Adults 'Needlessly Vulnerable' to Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, According to New Report
Date:4/3/2009

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases Calls for Increased Immunization Rates among Adults; Launches Comprehensive Web site to Educate Public, Healthcare Providers

BETHESDA, Md., April 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Fifty thousand American adults die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Hundreds of thousands more are hospitalized and miss work because of infections that could be prevented with vaccines. Yet, most Americans continue to think of vaccines as benefiting only children, not adults.

In an effort to raise awareness about the importance of the adult immunization schedule, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), with support from the nation's leading health organizations, has issued a Call to Action to improve low vaccination rates among adults. Most adults are not protected against vaccine-preventable diseases, leaving them vulnerable to long-term suffering that could result in a high price tag for society.

To help educate the public, healthcare providers and the media, NFID launched a new comprehensive Web site on the importance of adult vaccination at www.adultvaccination.com. The Web site includes critical information on 13 adult diseases and the vaccines recommended to protect against them. The Call to Action also is available for download on the Web site.

"Vaccines are as crucial to our long-term health as are screenings for certain cancers. Unfortunately, many adults associate vaccinations with childhood, or assume influenza is the only vaccine they need," said William Schaffner, MD, President-Elect of NFID and chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "Vaccines are currently available to protect adults against many serious illnesses, but they are significantly under-used, elevating the risk of illness and even death."

NFID announced its Call to Action and online resources at an Interactive Online Scientific Symposium on April 2, 2009, which provided an in-depth medical briefing on recommended adult vaccines and the power of immunity.

"Unfortunately, adult vaccines are not on patients' radar. Increased education is needed to help ensure adults understand the importance of vaccination and know which vaccines they should receive. Healthcare providers also must commit to recommending vaccination for their adult patients," said Susan J. Rehm, MD, NFID Medical Director and Vice Chair of the Department of Infectious Disease at Cleveland Clinic. "Bottom line - it is a public health imperative to protect more adults from vaccine-preventable diseases."

Saving Lives: Integrating Vaccines for Adults into Routine Care

NFID's Call to Action, "Saving Lives: Integrating Vaccines for Adults into Routine Care," was developed based on dialogue with top health organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Infectious Diseases Society of America. The Call to Action emphasizes the impact that vaccine-preventable diseases have on adults, and the benefits of vaccination for individuals and the community at large.

The Call to Action highlights barriers to immunization and presents practical strategies that can be used to improve adult vaccination rates, including:

  • Increasing awareness of the adult immunization schedule; communicating who should be vaccinated and when.
  • Educating individuals about their potential for spreading disease among family/friends if they remain unvaccinated.
  • Making adult immunization a part of routine patient care; discussing vaccines with all patients and immunizing at all opportunities (well, sick and follow-up visits).
  • Prompting patients to ask about vaccines and prompting healthcare providers to adopt processes to ensure patient immunizations are up to date.

AdultVaccination.com Provides Tools and Information for the Public and Medical Professionals

NFID's new adult vaccination Web site (www.adultvaccination.com) is a comprehensive resource on adult vaccine-preventable diseases for the general public, healthcare providers and the media. Content includes disease-specific resources and important prevention information, including which vaccines adults should receive, and the top ten reasons to get vaccinated.

Resources for healthcare providers include tools to assist in improving adult vaccination rates, such as reminder postcards and phone scripts, patient education materials, and sample standing orders for a variety of diseases and vaccines. Information for the media includes backgrounders on adult vaccine-preventable diseases and downloadable graphics.

Select materials are also available in Spanish.

Impact of Adult Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Approximately 50,000 American adults die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Millions more miss work, cannot care for those who depend on them and risk passing their infections on to others. Yet, a 2008 NFID consumer survey on adult immunization found a significant knowledge gap and lack of concern about vaccination. For example, 40 percent of respondents said because they had vaccines as a child, they did not need them again, and more than one-third (34 percent) reported a lack of concern about catching vaccine-preventable diseases.

The burden of many adult vaccine-preventable diseases in terms of cost and lives lost is high. For example:

  • Influenza kills an average of 36,000 people annually and is associated with over $10 billion in costs with a moderately severe seasonal outbreak.
  • Pertussis, with an estimated one to three million cases each year, can lead to pneumonia and exposure of infants, who are at greatest risk of death from pertussis.
  • Pneumococcal disease, which causes pneumonia and invasive infections, kills approximately 5,000 annually.
  • HPV infects more than 6 million females per year; two HPV strains included in the vaccine cause 70 percent of all cervical cancers.
  • Shingles will affect one in three Americans in their lifetime. The accompanying severe pain syndrome (post-herpetic neuralgia) may last months or years after the shingles rash heals.
  • Hepatitis B-related liver disease kills about 5,000 Americans and costs $700 million annually.

About the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is a non-profit, tax-exempt (501c3) organization founded in 1973 and dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the causes, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases.

About the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases' Adult Immunization Initiative

NFID's adult immunization initiative is an educational program aimed at increasing awareness among patients, providers and the media about the role of adult vaccination in preventing dangerous infectious diseases.

NFID's adult immunization initiative is made possible through unrestricted educational grants to NFID from GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, sanofi pasteur and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

    Contact
    Jennifer Corrigan
    732-382-8898
    732-742-7148 (cell)


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SOURCE National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
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