Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Adults Who Skip Vaccines Cost Americans $9 Billion per Year

By Charles Lerner, MD, San Antonio
Consultant to TMA’s Committee on Infectious Diseases

Adults who decide to skip vaccines cost Americans $9 billion in 2015, according to a recent study. When people decide not to get their recommended shots, we all bear the costs of preventable hospitalizations, physician visits, medications, lost work time, and poor performance while working when ill.  

Influenza, or flu, alone accounts for a significant spike in deaths in the United States almost every year, with as many as 50,000 deaths in some years.  At least two studies (see here and here) show patient deaths nearly double in long-term acute care hospitals (LTACs) when health care workers do not get their annual flu vaccination. Our most vulnerable patients suffer when we ignore best practices. 

If we all received the recommended vaccinations, everyone would be better off. Physicians and other health officials recommend shots to protect against:

  • Influenza; 
  • Herpes zoster (shingles); 
  • Pneumonia; 
  • MMR: measles, mumps, and rubella;
  • Tdap: tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough);
  • Hepatitis B; 
  • Hepatitis A; 
  • Meningococcal; and 
  • Human papillomavirus.

Not only can we avoid the misery of disease and possible death, but also our pocketbook will benefit. We need to act responsibly to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our society.

Dr. Lerner is an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist in San Antonio.

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