Vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective public health prevention methods. Discovered more than 200 years ago, vaccine use can be credited with the global eradication of smallpox and regional elimination of polio and measles. And vaccinations are second only to clean, safe, drinking water in reducing mortality rates.
In short, vaccines save lives. At least two million each year.
While attention is rightly focused on vaccination for young children – over three million children worldwide die each year of vaccine preventable diseases – adult vaccination recommendations deserve recognition.
With record reports of the flu this winter, you have likely heard and read a great deal about the importance of getting a flu shot. But the flu vaccine is just one of many important vaccinations to discuss with your doctor.
A new report from Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) highlights new recommendations for vaccinations for both children and adults.
Among the report’s recommendations is the pneumococcal vaccine, PCV13, for adults over 65. In 2011, there were 37,000 cases of invasive pneumonia in the United States, and most of the 4,000 people who died from the illness were over the age of 50.
The ACIP report also recommends the zoster (shingles) vaccine for all adults over 60. Currently, people living to age 80 have a 1 in 2 chance of contracting shingles, a very painful virus. Though it is not 100 percent effective, the zoster vaccine also significantly reduces shingle symptoms if a vaccinated adult contracts shingles.
Another adult vaccine, the pertussis shot, can not only improve the health of adults, but can protect our youngest generations. Last year, there were 9,300 cases of pertussis, commonly known as whopping cough, in adults. While adults can typically recover quickly, the danger results from adults passing it to unvaccinated babies. Four out of five babies get whopping cough from an adult.
While most adults know to check on vaccinations before they travel to certain countries, the vaccinations above highlight the benefits of vaccines for diseases prevalent across the United States.
As Chairman of the Congressional Prevention Caucus, I understand the important role prevention plays in reducing contagious diseases. Due to the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2009, most health insurance companies, including Medicare, are now required to cover recommended vaccinations like those listed above with no out of pocket cost. Increased coverage for preventive measures is a significant step towards a health care system that truly improves the health of the American people.
I will continue working in Congress to ensure important Affordable Care Act benefits like vaccination coverage are fully implemented. I encourage all adults to talk with their health care providers about which vaccines are appropriate for them.
To learn more about adult vaccination and read the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices report, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/other/su6201.pdf