New fact sheet cites low vaccination rates, higher incidence of some preventable diseases in upstate NY

ROCHESTER, NY (09/30/2014)(readMedia)-- Upstate New York residents are more likely to contract certain vaccine-preventable illnesses and develop the flu at twice the rate of other state residents, according to a new Excellus BlueCross BlueShield fact sheet released today.

The report shows that the childhood immunization rate among upstate New York children ages 19 months to 35 months (54.5 percent), including the recommended doses of DTaP, polio, MMR, Hib, hepatitis B, varicella and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, is lower than the state rate (65.1 percent) and national rate (68.5 percent). Also, only one in three upstate New York adults age 18 to 64 receives an annual flu shot.

"We hope these findings will prompt upstate New Yorkers to pay more attention to keeping their vaccinations current," said Matthew Bartels, M.D, Medical Director for Clinical Quality, Excellus BCBS.

The Excellus BCBS 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.

Key findings include:

  • The rate of influenza in upstate New York (225.7 per 100,000) was nearly double the statewide rate (113.2 per 100,000) in 2012.
  • In 2011, 32.6 percent of upstate New York adults age 18 to 64 reported having a seasonal flu shot within the previous year, whereas 61.7 percent of adults age 65 and older reported having the vaccine. Adults age 18 to 24 had the lowest vaccination rate (18.8 percent).
  • Upstate New York adults had a low rate of pneumococcal lifetime vaccination (30.9 percent); 11.5 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 upstate New York (26.6 per 100,000) was nearly double the national rate (15.4 per 100,000).

"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 Bartels, who also is a pediatrician. "When adults choose to skip vaccinating their children, it's equivalent to forgoing the obvious protection that's offered by a bicycle helmet or a child car seat."

According to Bartels, 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 Bartels. "They may not remember if or when they were vaccinated for pertussis or pneumonia. For example, 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."

Bartels' 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.

To view "The Facts About Vaccine-preventable Diseases in Upstate New York," download a printable "Health and Immunization Record" booklet, or many other reports on health, wellness, behaviors, cost and access issues, go to

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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, a nonprofit independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association, is part of a family of companies that finances and delivers vital health care services to about 1.6 million people across upstate New York. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield provides access to high-quality, affordable health coverage, including valuable health-related resources that our members use every day, such as cost-saving prescription drug discounts and wellness tracking tools. To learn more, visit