[NOTE TO EDITORS: NATIONAL ADULT IMMUNIZATION AWARENESS WEEK IS OCTOBER 13-19.]
WASHINGTON, D.C–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–October 7, 2002–U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, today joined NFID, NCAI and leading infectious disease experts to urge the elderly and chronically ill to be vaccinated against influenza and pneumococcal disease to help prevent needless hospitalization and death.
“We are encouraging Americans to get vaccinated against influenza beginning this month, especially those at high risk, who include people aged 65 and older, people 6 months to 64 years of age with chronic medical conditions, and health care workers,” said U.S. Surgeon General Carmona. “In addition, the elderly and chronically ill should seek pneumococcal vaccination if they have not been previously immunized for this disease.”
The surgeon general also stressed persons 50 to 64 years of age and all other healthy persons should seek influenza vaccination starting in November and into December, urging them “to stop by their doctor’s office to be immunized.”
Joining the surgeon general at the press conference, sponsored by NFID and NCAI, were representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Influenza and pneumococcal disease combined cause more than 26,000 deaths nationwide and over 280,000 hospitalizations annually.
CDC estimates 20,000 people will die and approximately 114,000 will be hospitalized from influenza-related complications each year. Influenza vaccine is associated with reducing hospitalization by 30 to 70 percent in free-living persons over age 65. Among nursing home residents, vaccine can reduce the risk of hospitalization by about 50 to 60 percent and the risk of death by 80 percent.
“These deaths and hospitalizations are unnecessary,” U.S. Surgeon General Carmona said. “One simple flu shot can help prevent elderly and chronically ill Americans from getting this highly preventable infection or its complications, and will help keep other persons healthy and on the job and at school.”
Walter A. Orenstein, MD, director of the CDC’s National Immunization Program, stressed the need for pneumococcal vaccination among persons 65 years of age and older and for the chronically ill. There are approximately 60,000 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease in the United States each year and about 20,000, or one-third, of these cases are in people 65 years of age and older. Over half of the estimated 6,000 to 7,000 deaths occur in the elderly.
CDC Announces First Adult Immunization Schedule
Surgeon General Carmona and Dr. Orenstein also encouraged health care providers and other immunizers to adopt and implement the CDC’s new adult immunization schedule. This new adult vaccination schedule, similar to the long-standing, current childhood immunization schedule, provides a comprehensive summary of recommendations for vaccine-preventable diseases across the lifespan of adults in the U.S.
The schedule is designed as a convenient, up-to-date tool for health care providers for assessing the vaccine needs of adult patients during office visits and administering appropriate adult vaccines.
Ample Vaccine Supply
CDC estimates a record amount of influenza vaccine this season-94 million doses, with 75 million shipped to customers by the end of October, said Dr. Orenstein.
“The good news is that there is an abundant supply of influenza vaccine to immunize high-risk groups and others who want to protect themselves against influenza,” said Dr. Orenstein. “Most health care providers should have received full or partial shipments of influenza vaccine in their offices to begin to vaccinate high-risk patients in October.”
The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine used in adults remains in adequate supply, but the vaccine used in children is still in short supply. Adult vaccination rates for pneumococcal vaccination remain low, especially among minority groups, said Dr. Orenstein.
Healthy Children Aged 6 to 23 Months Encouraged to Receive Annual Flu Shot
This year marks the first influenza season when parents are being encouraged to vaccinate healthy children between the ages of 6 and 23 months, as this age group is at increased risk for serious influenza-related complications, reported Jon Abramson, MD, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ liaison to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and professor and chair, Department of Pediatrics, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
“Recent data show healthy children between the ages of 6 and 23 months of age have high rates of hospitalization associated with influenza, which are second only to hospitalization rates in individuals 65 years of age and older who are targeted for influenza vaccination,” said Dr. Abramson. “Influenza infection is responsible for substantial morbidity among these healthy children, requiring both inpatient and outpatient care during the influenza season.”
High-risk children-those with chronic diseases-are already recommended for influenza immunization; however, Dr. Abramson said only 10 to 30 percent of high-risk children receive the vaccine each year. He stressed the need for parents and health care providers to ensure these children also receive the vaccine. “The rate of delivery of influenza vaccine to high-risk children represents the lowest adherence rate for any recommended vaccine in pediatrics,” said Dr. Abramson.
Pneumococcal Vaccination Rates Improve But More Progress Needed to Meet National Goals
Pneumococcal vaccination rates continue to rise, but more progress is needed to meet the national Healthy People 2010 goals of 90 percent of those 65 years of age and older receiving pneumococcal vaccination, said William Schaffner, MD, an NFID director and professor and chairman, Department of Preventive Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Pneumococcal vaccination in adults 65 years of age and older increased from 28 percent in 1993 to 55 percent in 1999. However, only 8 of 49 states met Healthy People 2000 goals of 60 percent for those 65 years of age and older, as reported in “State Trends in Health Risk Factors and Receipt of Clinical Preventive Services Among U.S. Adults During the 1990s,” a study published in the May 22/29, 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
“It is important that all persons 65 years of age and older, and those under age 65 with chronic medical conditions receive a pneumococcal vaccination to protect themselves from this serious disease that causes more than 175,000 hospitalizations each year,” Dr. Schaffner said.
Pneumococcal vaccine can be administered at any time of the year, but in adults it is given most often at the same time as the influenza vaccine in early to mid-fall. CDC’s recommendations call on providers to emphasize that pneumococcal vaccination is not a substitute for influenza vaccination.
Pneumococcal vaccine is generally given once in a lifetime to those 65 years of age and older. Any individual who cannot recall being vaccinated against pneumococcal disease can be safely revaccinated.
Adults who are vaccinated before age 65 or who have certain chronic conditions may need to be revaccinated after five years.
Disparity in Vaccination Rates Continues
Disparity in vaccination rates among African Americans and Hispanics remain a major concern, according to Dr. Carmona, who discussed a major new initiative, the Racial and Ethnic Adult Disparities Immunization Initiative (READII), launched by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the CDC on July 31, 2002, to address the issue.
According to the CDC, only 48 percent of African American and 57 percent of Hispanic adults aged 65 years of age and older are routinely immunized against influenza compared to 67 percent of whites. Disparities for pneumococcal vaccination are even wider with 30 percent of Hispanics and 31 percent of African Americans receiving the vaccine compared to 57 percent of whites.
READII is comprised of two-year demonstration projects designed to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in influenza and pneumococcal vaccination coverage among African American and Hispanic adults 65 years of age and older. As part of these projects, the CDC will work with five sites across the country to improve vaccination rates in African Americans and Hispanics.
Medicare Part B/Medicaid Covers Vaccination
Sean Tunis, MD, Acting Chief Clinical Officer, Office of Clinical Standards and Quality, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, spoke at the press conference to stress that influenza and pneumococcal vaccination is covered by Medicare Part B and Medicaid.
Founded in 1973, NFID is a non-profit organization dedicated to public and professional educational programs about, and in support of, research into causes, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases.
NCAI is a network of more than 140 organizations dedicated to promoting adult and adolescent immunization primarily through educational and motivational activities. The coalition was formed in 1988 to make the most efficient use of public and private resources to achieve national goals in adult and adolescent immunization.
This press conference is supported, in part, by unrestricted educational grants to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases by Aventis Pasteur, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, MedImmune and Merck Vaccine Division.