Report reveals gaps in adult vaccination rates for some recommended shots

A new watchdog report is revealing gaps in some recommended routine vaccinations for adults around the country.

The report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) specifically focuses on four vaccinations including ones against the flu, pneumonia-related illnesses, shingles, and tetanus.

It did not look into rates for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The findings looked at national data from 2019 and 2020.

It found the estimated national adult vaccination rate for the flu is 46.3 percent and the adult vaccination rate for shingles is 31.6 percent.

The national rates are much higher for tetanus and the pneumococcal vaccine, which both had rates just above 70 percent.

The findings said these gaps are leading to “preventable disease, disability and death.”

“People are getting sick and sometimes dying,” said Carolyn Yocom, a Director in GAO’s Health Care team. “They are also infecting other people who may be at risk of getting sick and dying. So, it really is a problem for all of us.”

The report points to cost and access to healthcare providers as some of the reasons for the gaps.

“Factors stakeholders identified as affecting routine adult vaccination rates included the extent to which providers screen adults for vaccines, adults’ use of health care services, and the cost of vaccines for certain adults,” the report said. “For example, a full series of the shingles vaccine cost certain Medicare beneficiaries about $100 on average in 2021.”

Kristin and David Zastrow are Medicare recipients and told our Washington News Bureau they can relate to the cost factor impacting adults’ decisions to get vaccinated.

They said they are up to date on all their vaccines except for one.

“We just had our pneumonia shots,” said Kristin Zastrow. “We had our tetanus shots.”

“We’re diligent on everything else and we went to get our shingles shot and they told us it’s not covered,” said David Zastrow. “It would cost us hundreds of dollars, so never mind.”

The report said there are some states with programs to help adults cover the cost of these vaccines.

The report also found racial disparities with the national adult vaccination rate, with Black and Hispanic Americans having an estimated vaccination rate 13 percent lower than that of white adults for each of the four routine vaccinations.

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