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Adult vaccination rates in the US are pretty low

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Why yes, adults should also get their shots

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Vaccinations aren't just for childhood; they're also important to keep adults healthy. But vaccination rates among US adults are low for the most routine shots, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Today's report from the CDC, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, looked at the lifetime use of six common vaccines among adults in 2013. The US has goals for use of three vaccines — pneumococcal disease, shingles, and hepatitis B — in its Healthy People 2020 documents. Several federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, collaborate on Healthy People planning documents every 10 years; the first goals were set in 1979. The figures from 2013 show that the US is falling short on those objectives.

the us is falling short on its health objectives

By 2020, health officials want 90 percent of people who are older than 65 to receive the pneumococcal disease vaccine, but the figures from 2013 show that only about 60 percent of that group got their shots. The pneumococcal disease jab is also recommended for high-risk patients who are 18 through 64 — so for anyone with an impaired immune system, and also for people with some health conditions, including heart disease, sickle cell disease, and diabetes. The government goals in that group are to have 60 percent of these younger adults vaccinated in 2020; in 2013, only 20 percent actually received injections.

And it wasn't just pneumococcal vaccine, either. Take hepatitis B: the government goal is to have 90 percent of adults immunized in 2020; only a quarter of adults were actually vaccinated in 2013. And then there's shingles, a painful condition wherein the virus that causes chickenpox reactivates in a person's body, causing a blistering rash. The goal for 2020 is for 30 percent of adults over the age of 60 to get a jab to protect them from shingles; in 2013, a quarter of that age group got the shot.

Aside from flu shots — which every adult should get every year — vaccines in adults are usually recommended depending on an individual patient's risk factors. Those include a person's age, certain health conditions, occupation, travel, and some behavioral risks, like injection drug use.

many adults don't realize they need vaccines too In response to the figures, the report's authors make some recommendations. More doctors should be assessing whether patients need certain shots and assessing the level of patient vaccinations among doctors who share a practice. Many people don't realize they need vaccines as adults, so they should be educated, the authors write. Narrowing health disparities between the races — whites are most likely to be vaccinated — is also a crucial issue; some people don't get vaccinated because they don't have access to doctors.

Separately in the MMWR, the CDC updated its recommendations for children and adults. The recommendations for children ages 18 and younger contained some minor changes to language, without changing the recommended vaccines or sequence. In adults, the CDC recommended that everyone 65 and older receive a version of the pneumococcal disease vaccine; previously, it had only been recommended for high-risk groups.