This month, we’re celebrating National Immunization Awareness Month! Although children may come to mind first when we think of vaccination, access to immunization is just as important for older Americans.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some childhood vaccines can become less effective over time. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urges seniors to get vaccinated for the flu, tetanus, hepatitis A and B, pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough), pneumococcal, meningococcal, shingles and more.
It’s estimated that following the full immunization schedule from birth benefits society by saving 33,000 lives and $33.4 billion in indirect health care costs in the United States. However, vaccination coverage among American adults remains low, so thousands still die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Medicare Part D covers many of these critical vaccines, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has encouraged Part D plans to offer either zero or low cost sharing for vaccines to help increase adult immunization rates.
Ensuring seniors have affordable access to vaccines is increasingly important as new, innovative immunizations are closer and closer to being available. Take, for example, HIV. There are 16 vaccines for HIV currently in development, including additional combination treatments, more effective therapies and preventative vaccines. Or look at cancer – there are currently 96 cancer vaccines in development harnessing the body’s own immune system to protect against the disease.
Biopharmaceutical researchers are pursuing new techniques and strategies in vaccine development, such as the use of genomics, to address these and other challenges, creating new opportunities to protect against many more life-threatening diseases in the future.
Watch this video to learn more about progress in developing new vaccines: