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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield fact sheet points to low vaccination rates and higher incidence of certain vaccine-preventable diseases in upstate New York

 

Upstate New York residents are more likely to contract certain vaccine-preventable illnesses and also develop the flu at twice the rate of other state residents, according to a new Excellus BlueCross BlueShield fact sheet.

Of all upstate New York regions studied in the report, Central New York had the highest number of reported vaccine-preventable diseases (4,236) and the highest rate of total reported cases of vaccine-preventable diseases (392.3 per 100,000). Influenza incidence was highest in Central New York (358.1 per 100,000), which is more than three times the statewide rate (113.2 per 100,000).

On a more positive note, the report also shows that Central New York had the highest vaccination rate among upstate New York children ages 19 months to 35 months (56.4 percent), including the recommended doses of DTaP, polio, MMR, Hib, hepatitis B, varicella and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines. That rate is still lower than the state rate (65.1 percent) and national rate (68.5 percent).

“We hope these findings will prompt Central New Yorkers to pay more attention to keeping their vaccinations current,” said Arthur Vercillo, M.D., regional president, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

The Excellus BlueCross BlueShield fact sheet, “The Facts About Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in Upstate New York,” highlights low upstate New York vaccination rates for influenza, pertussis, pneumonia and childhood diseases and provides the facts regarding common vaccine misconceptions.

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Other key findings include:

  • In 2011, 34.3 percent of Central New York adults age 18 to 64 reported having a seasonal flu shot within the previous year, whereas 51.2 percent of Central New York adults age 65 and older reported having the vaccine. Upstate New York adults age 18 to 24 had the lowest seasonal flu vaccination rate (18.8 percent).
  • Central New York adults had a low rate of pneumococcal lifetime vaccination (30.8 percent); 9.9 percent reported not knowing if they had received a pneumococcal vaccination.
  • Due to the nationwide pertussis outbreak in 2012, pertussis rates across the country were high, but the rate in Central New York (23.9 per 100,000) was higher than the state rate (16.2 per 100,000) and national rate (15.4 per 100,000).
  • Influenza and pertussis cases together account for about 96 percent of total reported vaccine-preventable illnesses in upstate New York.

“It’s difficult to understand why some adults avoid or ignore recommended vaccinations, when clinical research clearly shows that vaccinations for diseases such as influenza, pertussis and pneumonia save lives,” said Vercillo. “When adults choose to skip vaccinating their children, it’s equivalent to forgoing other types of protections, such as those offered by a bicycle helmet or a child car seat.”

According to Vercillo, the true burden of vaccine-preventable diseases is undercounted, because many cases go undiagnosed, and some diseases, such as chicken pox, are not reported in New York state.

“Another important takeaway from the fact sheet is that some people do not know their immunization status,” said Vercillo. “They may not remember if or when they were vaccinated for pertussis or pneumonia. They may have been current with their vaccinations while still in school, but lost track of their vaccinations as they moved into adulthood. If otherwise healthy, they may not have seen a doctor for years.”

Vercillo’s message to all adults is to talk to your doctor and your children’s doctor about vaccinations so that you and those around you can remain healthy.

“Patients who are not vaccinated put themselves and others at risk for sickness, hospitalization, decreased quality of life and even death,” he said.

View “The Facts About Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in Upstate New York,” including the most current recommendations for adult and child immunizations, and an entire library of fact sheets on health, wellness, and health care cost and access issues at ExcellusBCBS.com/factsheets.

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