A large percentage of Americans don't know the government-recommended vaccinations for their age and health condition, according to a Walgreen Co. survey.

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Walgreens poll finds low awareness of recommended vaccinations

April 23rd, 2012

DEERFIELD, Ill. – A large percentage of Americans don't know the government-recommended vaccinations for their age and health condition, according to a Walgreen Co. survey.

Walgreens said Monday that the online poll of over 1,000 U.S. adults found that 42% are unaware of the recommended immunizations, while 53% aren't diligent about regular checkups with their primary care doctor.

What's more, the survey revealed that 36% of respondents believe they have knowledge of some, but not all, of the recommended vaccinations. Overall, 71% said they would be interested to know which vaccinations are recommended for them.

"If people aren’t going to the doctor or talking regularly with a pharmacist, nurse practitioner or other health care professional, it would be difficult to know what immunizations they may be due or overdue for," Jeff Kang, senior vice president of pharmacy, health and wellness services and solutions at Walgreens, said in a statement. "This also shows the opportunity to educate consumers because while many are interested in knowing, they just aren't getting this type of health information."

For people surveyed who do know all or some of the current vaccine recommendations, 71% said they are up to date with their immunization schedule. 

Of diseases or illnesses that concern respondents the most, flu ranked the highest. Walgreens said 27% of those polled indicated that they're worried about it, and about 75% of them said they've received a flu shot as a preventive measure.

Other diseases or illnesses ranking high in terms of concern included pneumonia, cited by 13% of respondents (51% of whom have been vaccinated); shingles, cited by 10% (22% have been vaccinated; and hepatitis, cited by 8% (43% have been vaccinated). Meningitis, whooping cough and measles/mumps were also mentioned. Thirty percent of respondents indicated no concern about any of the diseases/conditions named.

Lack of education the chief reason for not getting vaccinations, the Walgreens survey found. Of those polled, 67% said they didn't have enough information to get the vaccine for meningitis, while 48% said so for pneumonia, 39% for shingles and 30% for hepatitis.

Walgreens noted that according to a February Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, at least 45,000 U.S. adults die annually of diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. By comparison, the CDC reports that fewer than 1,000 Americans die of childhood diseases that are vaccine-preventable.

"Awareness and education are the first steps in helping people understand the importance of preventive health and immunizations are a big part of that," Kang stated. "These services are now widely covered by insurers. With an expansive network of immunizing pharmacists and nurse practitioners in Walgreens stores, we're providing greater access to vaccinations and other health care services and bridging a critical gap in health care today. More than 60% of Take Care Clinic patients don't have a primary care physician yet do have health insurance."

Walgreens reported that most people who die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States are adults, approximately 42,000 annually, according to Healthy People 2020, a Department of Health and Human Services initiative.

And in its most recent Health Care Trends Report, the American Medical Association stated that the lack of public awareness of the importance of immunizations "poses a significant public health risk for patients and their families," according to Walgreens.