A Huge Number of American Adults Skip Vaccination, Study Finds, In Spite of Risks

According to a new report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although more young women have started getting their HPV shots, loads of American adults are skipping getting their vaccinations, for everything from hepatitis to the flu. Every year, 30,000 people in the US die of vaccine-preventable diseases, and the majority of them are adults; right now, adult vaccination rates in the U.S. are "unacceptably low" — but why are so many millennials not doing this tiny thing that can protect them from serious or life-threatening diseases?

In terms of flu shots, just 41.8 percent of adults aged between 18 and 64 got vaccinated during 2011-12 season, and only 45 percent got themselves vaccinated for the 2012-13 season. And, according to the CDC, Americans just aren't taking advantage of other important vaccines, including those for hepatitis and pneumonia — only 12 percent of adults aged 19 to 49 had full hepatitis A vaccination coverage in 2012, for example.

"The trend of low vaccination rates among younger adults is particularly troubling this year, when they are more at risk than usual for the effects of the H1N1 strain of flu that's circulating. It's easy to become complacent about the flu," said the executive director of Trust for America's Health. "We're used to it, it happens every year. So much so that we forget that it is largely preventable through a quick shot - which I might add is now free to most Americans thanks to the Affordable Care Act."

So what is making U.S. adults skip the needle? One policy researcher at RAND Corp. suggests that it could be that adults just don't see the consequences of not getting a shot. When you're a child, schools will require you to get all your shots before you can begin the academic year, but obviously that's not the case when you're an adult. "Children have regular encounters like well child visits where they get vaccinated," she said. "There's a constant contact with the health-care system."

Others have suggested that it's because people just don't know the facts — and consequently get scared. A recent survey of 600 family doctors found that only 30 percent say they talk to their patients about vaccines at every visit; researchers from the University of Colorado in Denver found that most doctors don't even stock all the recommended vaccines.

"Our study suggests that missed opportunities for adult vaccination are common because vaccination status is not being assessed at every (physician's) visit, which is admittedly an ambitious goal" said Dr. Laura Hurley, who led the researchers. "Most physicians are not stocking all recommended vaccines."

You'd think that the wonders of the world wide web would help tell people about what's really going on with vaccinations, but the truth is, there's a lot of conflicting information out there. Many believe vaccines can cause autism, for example, and a 2011 study found that roughly half of those who didn't get vaccinated agreed with statements such as "I don't believe in flu vaccines." Whatever that means.

"Mythology surrounding vaccination is the greatest obstacle," said Dr. Len Horovitz of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. In other words: inform yourselves, people.

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