StateStats: A Shot in the Arm: October/November 2010 

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It’s flu season, and even though H1N1 is no longer at pandemic levels, it’s still important to get a flu shot every year (which includes H1N1 and two other flu strains this year). Other adult vaccines, such as pneumonia and shingles, also are important. Each year, approximately 23,000 Americans die of the seasonal flu, 5,000 die from pneumonia, and more than 1 million adults get shingles, a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Direct health care costs of adult vaccine-preventable diseases are $10 billion annually according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yet only 36.1 percent of adults are vaccinated each year for the seasonal flu (recommended now for everyone over six months old), only 66.9 percent of seniors get the pneumococcal vaccine (recommended once for adults age 65 and older), and only 2 percent are vaccinated for shingles (recommended for everyone over 60), according to a report by the Trust for America’s Health, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The CDC recommends flu vaccinations for all healthcare workers.

Immunizations are one of the most cost-effective ways to protect individual and public health, but little public health infrastructure exists to support mass vaccination of adults. In August, federal authorities announced a $1.9 billion plan to identify and manufacture drugs and vaccines for public health emergencies with the goal of shaving weeks off the time it takes to identify promising scientific discoveries, produce vaccines and get them to market.

Policy Options to Increase Adult Vaccination Rates

  • Require insurers (including Medicaid) to cover vaccine costs for all 10 adult vaccines recommended by the CDC.
  • Increase public education.
  • Develop standard practices or systems such as voluntary immunization registries that allow providers to review patients’ immunization histories and offer vaccines at appropriate medical visits. 
  • Provide incentives to encourage research, development and production of vaccines.
  • Support state purchase and distribution of vaccines.
  • Broaden the types of professionals who can administer vaccines, such as physician assistants, certified nursing assistants and dentists.

Seasonal Flu Vaccination Rates
(Percentage of adults age 18 and older, who received the vaccine in 2008)

Source: CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2008.

South Dakota      

      49.2

Minnesota     

      46.6

Nebraska      

      45.2

Iowa      

      44.8

Hawaii      

      44.2

New Hampshire     

      42.6

North Dakota      

      42.1

Rhode Island      

      42.0

Oklahoma      

      41.8

Connecticut      

      41.1

Virginia      

      40.7

Maine      

      40.6

Massachusetts     

      40.5

Wisconsin      

      40.5

Colorado     

      40.4

North Carolina      

      40.4

Vermont      

      40.2

Arkansas      

      40.1

Utah     

      39.8

Tennessee      

      39.5

Wyoming      

      39.5

Missouri      

      39.2

West Virginia      

      39.1

Kansas     

      38.9

Delaware      

      38.8

Kentucky      

      38.6

New Mexico     

      38.6

Maryland     

      38.5

Pennsylvania      

      38.3

D.C.      

      38.2

Louisiana      

      38.2

Washington      

      38.0

Alabama     

      37.9

Montana      

      37.8

New York      

      37.6

Ohio      

      37.1

South Carolina      

      36.3

Michigan      

      35.7

Mississippi     

      35.5

Texas      

      35.4

Oregon      

      35.3

Alaska      

      35.2

Arizona      

      34.8

New Jersey     

      34.8

Indiana      

      34.1

Idaho      

      33.0

Illinois      

      31.9

Georgia      

      31.8

Florida      

      31.4

California      

      30.8

Nevada      

      25.5

 

 

     

National Total               36.1