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STUDY SHOWS SKIPPING SHOTS FATAL FOR OLDER AMERICANS

SHARE STUDY SHOWS SKIPPING SHOTS FATAL FOR OLDER AMERICANS

Despite years of public information campaigns, immunization rates among older Americans for pneumonia and influenza remain low, and a significant number of disease victims are dying unnecessarily, a new federal report concludes.

The General Accounting Office, which is the investigatory arm of Congress, studied vaccination rates for Americans over 65 and found that nearly three-quarters of that group have never received a pneumonia vaccine and only about half have received a flu vaccine.The Centers for Disease Control estimated that there were 268,000 cases of pneumonialike diseases in 1994, causing 32,800 deaths among the 65-and-over population. On average, flu causes about 20,000 deaths each year among the 65-plus age group.

The Health Care Financing Administration estimates that $1 billion or more is being spent each year to treat the two diseases.

Despite the demonstrated success of both vaccines in preventing the illnesses, the GAO found that reaching the government's goal of vaccinating 60 percent of the 65-and-over group against flu by the year 2000 is unlikely to be met.