Our organization exists to improve the lives of older adults. There are many ways we can work towards this goal, but one of the most important aspects of senior health is vaccination.
Through a simple shot, we can protect someone’s beloved wife, mother, grandma or friend from a deadly, life-threatening disease. It’s critical to the mission of our organization that we fight to make sure seniors have access to the most important vaccinations.
However, the Centers for Disease Control has proposed potential changes to pneumococcal vaccination recommendations that threaten the well-being of American seniors. In just a few days, a CDC panel will consider changing or potentially eliminating the current recommendation for a pneumococcal vaccination for adults 65 and older.
Such a change could mean a reduction in the number of people who are vaccinated, and how both public and private insurance plans would provide coverage for the vaccines. This change would endanger the populations that we serve and we are strongly opposed to this proposal moving forward.
We’re not alone. Earlier this year we queried our members to find out their thoughts on this proposal—and the results were loud and clear: 64 percent of the seniors we surveyed think the CDC’s proposed changes would put their communities at risk.
The poll surveyed more than 1,100 older Americans who identify as concerned about healthcare during retirement– 98 percent of whom are over the age of 50 and 78 percent who are 65 and older. We asked them to consider the prevalence of vaccinations and the potential changes that are being considered by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the previously mentioned panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 72 percent of respondents said that they were so concerned about these potential changes that they wanted us to speak out against them.
And for good reason. Pneumococcal disease remains a serious health issue for older Americans. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, pneumococcal disease strikes nearly a million people each year in the U.S. Of those, nearly 18,000 adults 65 and older die as a result of the disease.
By changing the pneumococcal vaccine recommendations, doctors may be less likely to discuss the need for the vaccines — and the number of those older adults who will be protected could drop. In the midst of the resurgence of diseases like measles, why would we make it harder for any American to be vaccinated?
ACIP is scheduled to meet at CDC headquarters in Atlanta at the end of June and the pneumococcal recommendation is slated to be voted on. ACIP voting members must put older Americans first by maintaining the current recommendation.
Mark Gibbons is the President and CEO of RetireSafe, a nationwide, non-profit organization with a mission to educate and advocate on behalf of mature Americans on issues including Social Security, Medicare, health, safe retirement and financial well-being.
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