Take tetanus. Adults should get a booster ever 10 years to protect against the bacterial toxin that causes painful muscle stiffness and can be deadly. But according to a CDC report released Thursday, only 62.9 percent of people aged 19 to 49 had received the vaccine in the 10 years before 2013. Among people 50 to 64, 64 percent did, and for those older than 65, only 56.4 percent received the injection.
Or the herpes zoster vaccine, which prevents shingles, a painful blistering disease that can hit anyone who has had the chicken pox, though it most often occurs after the age of 50. According to the report, just 24.2 percent of people over the age of 60 reported receiving the vaccine, though that was an increase from 20.1 percent a year earlier.
Human papilloma virus vaccine, which young women can get until the age of 26 if they haven't been vaccinated earlier, protects against the most common sexually transmitted disease, a cancer-causer. According to the CDC report, just 36.9 percent of women between the ages of 19 and 26 report receiving more than one dose of the vaccine (each person should take a course of three).
There's more, but you get the picture.
The report doesn't offer any reasons why we supposedly responsible adults skip our vaccines, but it calls for wider use of methods that improve adult vaccination rates. That includes education, publicity, better access to vaccination at health care facilities and use of reminder call systems and standing orders for vaccinations.
Susan Rehm, vice-chair of the Department of Infectious Disease at the Cleveland Clinic, called the current state of adult vaccinations "appalling." She said adults and, unfortunately, their medical providers just aren't accustomed to thinking of vaccines as something they need to keep tabs on.
"For children, there is a pretty well-known schedule of vaccinations that pediatricians and family medicine [physicians] are accustomed to using," she said. "They build it into their visits. That's not necessarily the case for adults."
As a result, Rehm said, physicians see cases of human papilloma virus, shingles and other diseases that could have been prevented with an injection or short course of vaccinations. "The story of adult vaccination is the story of missed opportunities," she said.