A Tale of Two Essays on Vaccine-Preventable Diseases; Risk Perception, Misinformation and other Barriers to H1N1 Vaccination Among Adults and Children

Vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks are on the rise, and are taking an increasing toll in lives and money. Moreover, the recent experience with the 2009 novel H1N1 flu outbreak served as a stark reminder that “there is no strong mechanism in place for vaccinating adults in the United States.” This is the latest brief from Trust for America’s Health, “Adult Immunization: Shots to Save Lives.”

“Millions of American adults go without routine and recommended vaccinations each year, which leads to an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 preventable deaths, thousands of preventable illnesses, and $10 billion in preventable health care costs each year” according to the report.

Structural barriers include fragmented insurance coverage for preventative care and vaccinations. The costs of some vaccines can be a disincentive, particularly in the case of HPV. Access to adult vaccines is limited by the lack of institutional or other established mechanisms to schedule and track adult vaccinations. The uninsured lack access altogether. A limited market along with long lead times and expense for R&D and regulatory approval discourages investment in adult vaccines.

Misunderstanding and misinformation, especially as impacts public perceptions of H1N1 vaccine safety, is a pervasive problem. And it is not just confined to patients, but also extends to some clinicians and heathcare workers who dissuade patients from getting vaccines. A recent national poll conducted from University of Michigan, found that parents were more concerned about the safety of H1N1 vaccines (66%) than were worried about their children getting infected with H1N1 (55%).

Diminishing flu activity and a relatively quiet flu season are also adding to (mis)perceptions that the danger of H1N1 has receded.

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TFAH: Issue Brief, Adult Immunization: Shots to Save Lives (PDF)
UMICH C.S. Mott Childrens Hospital: National Poll on Children’s Health; Is the Vaccine Worse than the Disease? Parent Concerns Hinder National H1N1 Immunization Efforts.

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