GPs are significantly overestimating the proportion of elderly patients they vaccinate against pneumococcal pneumonia, new research has found.
The findings reveal one in four GPs report vaccinating at least 75% of their elderly patients (aged 65+) against pneumococcal pneumonia, but national statistics show just 54% of this patient population has been immunised against the potentially life-threatening infection.
The Pneumococcal Pneumonia Vaccination General Practitioner survey, recently conducted by Seqirus, garnered 200 Australian GPs’ knowledge of, and behaviours involving pneumococcal vaccination and revaccination, nationwide.
The research found that although 75.5% of GP respondents report offering a second pneumococcal vaccine dose to those suitable, the remaining 24.5% only do so at patient request.
According to metropolitan and rural GP, Dr Rodney Pearce, Adelaide, the new research survey findings reveal GPs over-estimate their vaccination rates of this vulnerable population.
“Currently, national pneumococcal vaccination rates are low among those aged 65+,” he says.
“While a large number of GPs (56%) believe national vaccination rates are less than 50%, this is not reflected by their reported in-practice vaccination rates,” says Dr Pearce.
Pneumococcal pneumonia is a leading cause of serious illness and death among Australians aged 85 and over, with adults aged 65 and over at increased risk of developing the disease than the rest of the population.
Under current National Immunisation Program, older adults are eligible to receive the pneumococcal vaccination when turning 65 years of age (non-Indigenous Australians) or 50 years of age (Indigenous Australians).
A second dose is also recommended at least five years after the first dose for those with a chronic illness that elevates their risk of contracting invasive pneumococcal disease, including diabetes mellitus, chronic lung disease, chronic cardiac disease, chronic liver disease, Down syndrome, alcoholism or tobacco smoking.
“In addition to age being a risk factor for invasive pneumococcal disease, 63% of those aged 70 years and over also have a chronic condition that further elevates their risk, and this population is therefore eligible for a second dose,” says Dr Pearce.
“Given the significant percentage of the ageing population with an underlying chronic condition, it’s imperative for GPs to remind patients when a second vaccination is due.”
According to the research survey, GPs believe patient awareness of the risk of pneumococcal infection is low, with almost half (46%) of the survey respondents estimating less than a quarter of patients aged 65+ have knowledge of this risk.