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The Importance of Adult Immunizations

Vaccines may be the greatest technological development of the 20th Century. Immunizations are so effective at preventing and eradicating disease that many Americans have never seen a single case of mass epidemics, such as smallpox and polio. Despite the many advances in modern medicine, each year, thousands of people in the U.S. die from diseases that are easily prevented by safe and effective vaccines.

Although most adults realize that immunizations play an important role in keeping infants and children healthy, many are unaware that readily available vaccines offer a safe and cost-effective way to prevent serious illnesses and death among adults.


From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

  • As we age, we may become more susceptible to serious diseases caused by common infections, such as influenza and pneumococcus.
  • More than 46,000 American adults die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications.
  • Almost one million Americans get shingles every year. About half of them are 60 years of age or older.
  • Seasonal influenza causes more than 100,000 hospitalizations and an average of 36,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
  • Young adults have an increase incidence of meningococcal meningitis; Approximately 50 percent of all cases occur in persons 15 years and older. However, about 80 percent of cases in this age group are vaccine-preventable.
  • Adults are much more likely to develop complications and die from chickenpox than are children.
  • Vaccines are among the safest medicines available.
  • Individuals with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease are particularly at risk of influenza infection, as are people in nursing, convalescent, or other institutional settings.


  • 12,000 additional lives could be saved each year if 90 percent of adults age 50 received an annual flu immunization.  Today, less than 40% of adults have had an annual flu vaccination.
  • Vaccines can protect people from potentially life-threatening diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella and chickenpox.
  • Pertussis can be a serious disease in babies. Unimmunized parents and grandparents can pass the infection on to babies too young to be vaccinated. Adults who receive the Tdap vaccine are protected against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. The td vaccine is given to adults as a booster shot every 10 years or after exposure to tetanus. The pertussis vaccine need only be given once in a lifetime.
  • Influenza immunization can reduce physician visits and lost work days, and reduce antibiotic use.
  • By preventing illness, vaccinations save many healthcare dollars by keeping people healthy and avoiding the expensive therapies and hospitalizations needed to treat illnesses like influenza and pneumococcal disease.
  • Higher immunization rates and a stronger immunization infrastructure could help prepare the U.S. to respond to major disease outbreaks by improving our capacity for wide-scale rapid vaccine delivery to adults.
  • The costs of both the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are covered under Medicare Part B.


  • Consumers are often unaware that they need to get vaccinated or do not know when they should be vaccinated.
  • Public concern about the side effects, safety, and efficacy of immunizations.
  • Due to time restraints and competing priorities, health care providers may not recommend patients receive vaccinations.
  • Research suggests that financial barriers reduce vaccination rates among underinsured and uninsured adults.
  • Remember to consult your healthcare provider to determine your risk for vaccine-preventable diseases and the need for immunization.

For more information on adult immunization, contact Community Health at Bennington Area Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice at 442.5502.