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Tallahassee Democrat: New law makes vital vaccines easy to get

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

On behalf of AARP Florida, I applaud Gov. Rick Scott, state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, and the rest of the Florida Legislature on a new law that expands vaccines for Florida residents, especially for those age 50-plus.

Thanks to the Vaccine Access Act, in effect since July 1, pharmacists can now offer vaccinations against shingles and pneumonia as well as seasonal flu. Older Floridians are already benefiting.

During an often combative legislative session earlier this year, leaders put their differences aside to enact this common-sense proposal that will keep people healthy and reduce health costs. Until this year, Florida was one of a handful of states that did not permit pharmacists to offer these vaccines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thousands of older adults die or suffer serious complications from vaccine-preventable illnesses, including shingles and pneumonia.

Shingles, caused by the chicken pox virus that reactivates years or decades later, causes a painful, blistering rash and can cause chronic long-term pain. One in three Americans will eventually suffer from shingles, unless vaccination rates improve.

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can lead to serious complications including difficulty breathing and, in 50,000 severe cases each year, death. Older adults and young children are more likely than other age groups to contract the illness.

The CDC recommends single-dose vaccinations for both pneumonia and shingles to protect older adults. Yet, many people are not getting these vaccines.

Data from the 2009 National Health Interview Survey show that shingles vaccination rates are extremely low, with only about 11 percent of the majority population receiving the vaccine, and even smaller percentages among minorities. And, while nearly two-thirds of the majority population age 65 and over is vaccinated against pneumonia, that rate falls to less than half among Hispanics and African-Americans.

Allowing pharmacists to administer more vaccines is a common-sense way to increase vaccination rates.|newswell|text|frontpage|s

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