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GSA’s CEO Issues Call to Action on Flu Vaccinations for Older Adults

For Immediate Release
October 16, 2015

Contact: Todd Kluss
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(202) 587-2839

All professionals interacting with older adults should be advocates for them to get flu shots, said The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) Executive Director and CEO James Appleby, BSPharm, MPH, speaking this week at the National Summit on Advancing the Draft National Adult Immunization Plan in Washington, DC.

“While we commonly think of physicians, nurses, and pharmacists discussing the value of an annual flu vaccine with older adults, many other trusted professionals including social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and others interact with older adults daily. They have a role in helping to promote this life-saving intervention,” Appleby said.

The summit, convened by GSA’s National Adult Vaccination Program with the support of Sanofi Pasteur, was developed to further the goals and objectives of  the draft National Adult Immunization Plan developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that about 90 percent of those who die from influenza-related causes are 65 years and older,” Appleby said. “Professionals across all disciplines and in all settings can help curb vaccine-preventable illnesses simply by asking an older adult, ‘Have you gotten your flu shot?’”

Appleby stressed that that this six-word question can be a call to action for older adults and their caregivers — and can also lead to a discussion between older adults and their health care providers regarding other appropriate vaccines to protect them from pneumococcal pneumonia, shingles, and other diseases.  

Wednesday’s summit brought together a broad group of more than 30 stakeholders interested in adult immunization to explore how each group can play a role in supporting implementation of the National Adult Immunization Plan being developed by the National Vaccine Program Office in conjunction with leading experts in the field.  The keynote speech was delivered by Bruce G. Gellin, MD, MPH, the deputy assistant secretary for health and director of the National Vaccine Program Office at HHS.

The recommendations of the summit will be released later this year in a white paper, which will be posted on GSA’s website at www.geron.org.

Key themes of the summit included:

  • Jumpstarting implementation of key elements of the draft National Adult Immunization Plan.
  • Showcasing the available evidence about the economic impact of adult immunization, the burden of illness due to influenza, and the systemic nature of influenza infection.
  • Expanding the range of disciplines in the “immunization neighborhood” involved with advocating for, and facilitating, older adults getting an annual flu vaccination.
  • Enabling health care professionals to deliver a strong recommendation for adult vaccination.

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The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.

 

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