Seriously Low Vaccination Rates Cause Experts to Call for Increased Immunization Before Influenza Season Peaks

Paradigm Shift Needed to Ensure Americans Seek Vaccination Now Through

the Fall and Winter Months

Sep 19, 2007, 01:00 ET from National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- New data, released
 today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), show
 alarmingly low influenza vaccination rates in both adults and children. CDC
 joined the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and the
 nation's leading health organizations at a national news conference urging
 increased efforts for Americans to seek immunization against influenza
 throughout the fall and winter.
     "We need to re-think the influenza immunization season and encourage
 vaccination throughout the fall and winter for anyone wishing to be
 protected," said Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, director, CDC. "More doses
 are expected this year than in previous seasons and there is ample time to
 be immunized."
     Dr. Gerberding issued this urgent public health message with leaders
 from AARP, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Medical
 Association (AMA), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), CDC and
 NFID, in partnership with the National Influenza Vaccine Summit, at a news
 conference this morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
     Dr. Gerberding also released new CDC vaccination coverage rates for
 adults and children, which reinforced the need for ongoing efforts to
 improve influenza immunization throughout the entire season. During the
 2005-2006 season, only one in five children aged 6-23 months were fully
 vaccinated and little more than one in ten children needing two doses
 received both doses. Influenza vaccine coverage varied substantially among
 states, but no state had more than 40 percent of children fully
     In addition, this CDC report, released during NFID's News Conference,
 indicates that influenza vaccination coverage in all states during the
 2005-2006 influenza season was substantially below the national 60 percent
 target for persons aged 18-64 years with high-risk conditions, and the 90
 percent target for persons aged 65 years and older.(1)
     Annual Severe Disease Burden Reinforces Importance of Vaccination
     Influenza is responsible for about 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000
 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year (2,3) In addition, the disease
 results in more than $87 billion of U.S. economic burden annually (e.g.,
 hospitalization costs, missed days of work, lost lives, etc.).(4) Influenza
 can be especially severe for those with high-risk conditions (e.g.,
 diabetes, heart disease), and recent studies have also found the illness
 may trigger up to 92,000 cardiac deaths per year nationwide.(5)
     "While we cannot predict influenza virus activity each season, we do
 know that annual vaccination will help protect individuals against
 influenza and also reduce spread of the virus to others," said Jeanne M.
 Santoli, MD, MPH, deputy director of the CDC's Immunization Services
     The CDC recommends an annual influenza vaccination for anyone,
 including school-aged children, who wishes to reduce their risk for
 contracting the illness or spreading the disease to others. Additionally,
 vaccination is important for certain populations at increased risk for
 severe complications, including children from 6 months up to 5 years of
 age, people with chronic medical conditions (e.g., asthma, diabetes, heart
 disease, HIV) and pregnant women. Immunization is also recommended for
 persons 50 years of age and older, health care professionals and all others
 in close contact with high-risk populations, particularly in contact with
 children younger than 6 months of age who cannot receive influenza vaccine.
 This includes parents, grandparents, siblings and babysitters.
     "Not only does annual influenza vaccination help protect yourself, it
 also helps create a 'cocoon of protection' for those around you," said
 William Schaffner, MD, NFID Vice President. "Vaccination is the best way to
 prevent influenza from infecting yourself and others, including family,
 friends, schoolchildren and co-workers, and is the right thing to do for
 your community this and every influenza season."
     Time to "Re-think" the Influenza Season: Use Every Opportunity to
     Influenza vaccination should begin when vaccine is available in the
 community and continue throughout the entire season. Most people
 concentrate on vaccination during the fall and winter months, but
 vaccination is beneficial well into the New Year: the virus often continues
 to circulate through the spring.
     The influenza season can begin as early as October and last as late as
 May. Typically, the season peaks in February, leaving many months to seek
 immunization. Previous seasons have seen a drop in public demand for
 vaccine after Thanksgiving, leaving numerous doses unused and many
 Americans unprotected.
     "Health care professionals and their patients must work together to
 make sure every opportunity to discuss influenza immunization and receive
 the vaccine is used," said Ardis D. Hoven, MD, Board of Trustees, American
 Medical Association. "There is plenty of time each year to get immunized,
 especially since the influenza season usually lasts through the spring."
     In addition, health care professionals and other caregivers should seek
 influenza vaccine for themselves to protect against illness and to prevent
 spreading this severe respiratory disease among patients, especially those
 who are immunocompromised.
     CMS Efforts to Increase Vaccination Rates
     Seniors over 65 years of age are among those at greatest risk of
 complications and death due to influenza and pneumococcal disease. To
 address this risk, Medicare Part B and Medicaid continue to cover influenza
 and pneumococcal vaccines. But not enough Americans seek out this benefit,
 according to Kerry Weems, Acting Administrator, CMS.
     "Vaccination rates for Medicare recipients are critically low
 throughout the country. At least 20 percent of Americans with Medicare
 don't get their influenza vaccination," said Weems. "For Americans 65 years
 of age and older, the importance of getting vaccinated against influenza
 and pneumococcal disease can't be overstated."
     Medicare reimbursement will stay at current levels this year for
 influenza vaccine ($12.62). Rates for pneumococcal vaccine have increased
 by 10 percent ($29.73). Medicare's national average administration fee for
 both vaccinations will be $19.60, an increase of 4.2 percent from last
     Influenza Prevention Among Americans 50+ Helps Maintain Health and
 Well-being for Themselves and Close Contacts
     Americans aged 50 years and older are leading fuller, more active lives
 while also facing added responsibilities at work and home. In fact, with
 people living longer, 71 percent of today's baby boomers have at least one
 living parent. Approximately one of every eight are raising a child and
 providing financial assistance to a parent, according to the Pew Research
     "AARP is committed to educating its 39 million members about the
 importance of using preventive measures like getting annual influenza
 immunizations to guard against illness," said T. Byron Thames, MD, Board of
 Directors, AARP. "Increasing vaccination rates among our members will also
 help protect those they care for - their grandchildren and parents who are
 more vulnerable to influenza and its complications."
     The ongoing challenge of balancing work and family reinforces the role
 of ongoing wellness and prevention efforts for those 50+, which includes
 annual influenza vaccination. According to the CDC, only 36 percent of
 adults 50-64 years of age and about 60 percent of those aged 65 years and
 older are vaccinated against influenza each year. There are more than 89
 million Americans aged 50+ (the largest target group for influenza
 vaccine), and this leaves many unprotected every season. They are also
 increasing their chances of passing along the influenza virus to their
 older parents, spouses, children, grandchildren, friends and co-workers.
     Alarmingly High Number of Children Unvaccinated; Leaving Serious Risk
 for Severe Illness, Complications
     Rates of influenza infection are the highest among children, yet a
 large majority are not vaccinated every year, the most effective way to
 prevent illness. For example, only 18 percent of children aged 6-23 months
 are vaccinated,(6) and just 30 percent of children with asthma (the most
 common chronic health condition in children) are immunized.
     "When a child dies because of influenza, the devastating loss is felt
 throughout the family and community, including the school and even the
 pediatrician's office," said AAP President, Jay Berkelhamer, MD. "Several
 thousand more children end up in the hospital. Parents and their children's
 health care team must work together to ensure these concerning,
 vaccine-preventable tragedies don't happen every year."
     The CDC estimates nearly 100 U.S. children younger than 5 years of age
 die every year due to influenza and its complications.(1) It is necessary
 to use every opportunity during the entire influenza season to administer
 influenza vaccination to children and their close contacts.
     Antiviral Medications Play Key Role in Treating and Preventing
 Influenza Transmission
     Prescription antiviral medications play an important role in the
 prevention and treatment of influenza. Currently, four antiviral
 medications are marketed in the United States. For the 2007-2008 season,
 the CDC recommends use of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza), for
 treatment and prevention of influenza. Neither amantadine nor rimantadine
 should be used for the treatment or chemoprophylaxis of influenza, due to
 high levels of resistance.(7) Resistance to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and
 zanamivir (Relenza) remains extremely uncommon.(8)
     If taken within 12-48 hours of symptom onset, antiviral medications can
 reduce the duration and severity of influenza, which is characterized by
 fever, aches, chills and tiredness. People who are at high risk of serious
 complications from influenza may benefit most from antiviral
     Antiviral medication can also be used as a preventive measure for those
 who have been exposed to influenza or are at high risk for complications.
 Prophylactic use of antivirals can help contain the spread of influenza in
 crowded settings like nursing homes, schools, households or the workplace.
 Antivirals can also be used in patients who cannot receive influenza
 vaccine because of egg allergies.
     Hospitalizations due to Pneumonia High Among Adults; Vaccination the
 Best Prevention Yet Often Unused
     CDC estimates that there were over 40,000 U.S. cases of invasive
 pneumococcal disease in 2005, resulting in 4,850 deaths.(9) Caused by a
 common bacterium, pneumococcal disease is transmitted most often during the
 winter and early spring, when other respiratory infections, like influenza,
 are circulating in communities.
     Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but some groups are at increased
 risk, including persons aged 65 and older and individuals with weak immune
 systems or chronic illnesses. In fact, over half of U.S. cases are among
 adults who are recommended to receive vaccination.(10)
     "Only about 65 percent of people 65 years of age and older have been
 vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. This is concerning since this is
 the only available prevention method against this seriously
 life-threatening disease," said Robert H. Hopkins, Jr., MD, University of
 Arkansas for Medical Sciences. "With an increase in reported antibiotic
 resistance to this infection, we urge anyone at risk to talk to their
 health care provider about immunization."
     About the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
     The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is a non-profit,
 tax-exempt (501c3) organization founded in 1973 and dedicated to educating
 the public and healthcare professionals about the causes, treatment and
 prevention of infectious diseases.
     About the National Influenza Vaccine Summit
     The National Influenza Vaccine Summit, co-sponsored by CDC and the AMA,
 is a group of more than 400 members representing 130 organizations,
 including: professional medical and public health organizations, advocacy
 groups, pharmacists, vaccine manufacturers and distributors, payers,
 representatives from hospitals and long term care facilities, health care
 providers and other influenza vaccine stakeholders. The Summit's goal is to
 address, discuss and help to resolve influenza vaccine issues and to
 increase utilization of vaccine in accordance with the Advisory Committee
 on Immunization Practices recommendations.
     Editor's note - Additional influenza media resources available via
 NFID's Web site, HYPERLINK ""
     This news conference is sponsored by the National Foundation for
 Infectious Diseases in partnership with the National Influenza Vaccine
 Summit and is supported, in part, by the Centers for Disease Control and
 Prevention, and through unrestricted educational grants to NFID by the
 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CSL Biotherapies, Flu Vaccine
 Business Practices Initiative (c/o HIDA), GlaxoSmithKline, Henry Schein,
 Inc., MedImmune Vaccines, Merck and Co., Inc., Novartis Vaccines, Roche,
 and sanofi pasteur.
     (1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR 2007; 56(37).
     (2) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention and Control
 of Influenza: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization
 Practices (ACIP). MMWR 2007; 56(Early Release):1-40.
     (3) Thompson WW, Shay D, Weintraub E, et al. Influenza-associated
 hospitalizations in the United States. JAMA 2001;292:1333-1340.
     (4) Molinari N, Ortega-Sanchez I, Messonnier M, et al. The annual
 impact of season influenza in the U.S: Measuring disease burden and costs.
 Vaccine 2007;25:5086-5096.
     (5) Madjid, M, Miller C, Zarubaev V, et al. Influenza epidemics and
 acute respiratory disease activity are associated with a surge in
 autopsy-confirmed coronary heart disease death: results from 8 years of
 autopsies in 34,892 subjects. European Heart Journal Advance Access.
 Available online, April 17, 2007.
     (6) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood influenza
 vaccination coverage. United States, 2004-2005 influenza season. MMWR Morb
 Mortal Wkly Rep 2006;55(38):1062-1065.
     (9) (Accessed August 1, 2007)
     (10) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2006. Active Bacterial
 Core Surveillance Report, Emerging Infections
     Program Network, Streptococcus pneumoniae, 2005. Available via the
     (11) Medicare pays 95% of the Average Wholesale Price for influenza and
 pneumococcal vaccine. The administration fee is priced according to the
 physician fee schedule and varies by locality.
     Contact: Jennifer Corrigan
     732-742-7148 (Cell phone)
     Victoria Amari
     718-413-6491 (Cell phone)

SOURCE National Foundation for Infectious Diseases