Adult vaccine rates sag, cost blamed for numbers

Most people think that vaccines are for kids–babies and booster shots and maybe an occasional flu shot when they get older.  Otherwise, many of the maintenance vaccines simply slip between the cracks until the need arises–land a foot on a rusty nail or come down with pneumonia and many adults realize that they can’t remember when they last rolled up their sleeve for an immunization.

Over the course of recent weeks, we have explored the cause of sagging vaccination rates among young women and girls in regards to the HPV/cervical cancer vaccine.  The specific reasons why many don’t get vaccinated have been mostly based on theories–fear of side effects, lack of time, misunderstanding about the medication, and cost.  An ever changing health care system leaves many with little or no health insurance and footing the bill for several hundreds of dollars worth of vaccinations just isn’t a priority for many.

A recent report in the New York Times’ Patient Money section took a look at why the cost of vaccines is holding many Americans back.  According to the article there are 19 different vaccines that are available to the adult population.  And while many will not require all of them, the numbers who stay current are less than impressive. It is estimated that only 7% of adults over the age of 60 have received the herpes zoster vaccine–better known as shingles, this painful disorder can plague its victims for weeks.  Only 11% of all girls between the ages of 9 and 26 have had the HPV vaccine Gardasil. Only 23% of all girls who start the HPV’s three shot series ever complete the necessary vaccinations.

Vaccines are expensive–Gardasil, can cost up to $350 per dose, and it requires three to complete the cycle. Other vaccines can range from as little as $20 or $25 for a flu shot to $200 or more for others. Many health care officials hope that new health care laws will increase the number of people who get their vaccinations.  Under the laws, Medicare and individual health plans must pay for preventative services–which includes vaccines–free of charge. No co-pay, no deductible or extra insurance to cover. Very little in this world is free, but vaccines may be on the horizon.

Whether or not these changes will actually increase the number of vaccinations is yet to be seen–other factors do make a difference in whether or not the numbers increase.  It only takes one negative experience–one poor reaction to a well-intended vaccine to change many people’s minds permanently.

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