GSA Demonstrates Importance of Adult Vaccinations in ACIP Comments

For Immediate Release
June 24, 2020

Contact: Todd Kluss
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The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) — the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — today urged the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to take steps to increase vaccination rates in all adults and, in particular, older adults and those who provide care for them.

The ACIP is a federal advisory committee, composed of medical and public health experts, that provides advice and guidance to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the most effective means to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. GSA was accepted to provide public comment at ACIP’s June 24 meeting.

Vaccines have consistently been underutilized in the adult population — with greater disparities among communities of color, people with limited English proficiency, people with chronic conditions, and people over the age of 65. Each year, upwards of 50,000 adults die from vaccine preventable disease, and many thousands more suffer from serious health problems. The U.S. spends $26.5 billion annually treating four vaccine-preventable diseases —flu, pneumococcal, shingles, and pertussis — among U.S. adults 50 years and older.

This year, public awareness of the importance of vaccines is heightened due to COVID-19. As influenza season is approaching and education campaigns are advanced, GSA requested that CDC communications underscore the importance of older adults receiving all ACIP-recommended vaccines. Likewise, it requested that there be an increased emphasis on the importance of vaccinations for people who care for older adults in close care settings (such as nursing homes, assisted living, and home care).

Additionally, GSA called on the committee to give specific consideration to the unique immunologic challenges that older adults present. For example, immune responses to influenza vaccines decline with age, reducing clinical effectiveness. In 2017 study of nursing homes, the incidence of respiratory-related hospital admissions was significantly lower in facilities where residents received high-dose influenza vaccines than in those that received standard-dose influenza vaccines.

Lastly, GSA asked for considerations for guidance that makes all adults feel safe in receiving vaccinations in their chosen location this year and moving forward. Providing these communications through health care providers and the aging network will give older adults and their caregivers the confidence to receive their recommended vaccinations.

GSA recently published a fact sheet titled “Aging and Immunity: Why Older Adults Are Highly Susceptible to Diseases Like COVID-19.” This fact sheet highlights the process for developing a COVID-19 vaccine and discusses changes in our bodies as we age that impact immunity.


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 unit, the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.