Low adult immunization rates decline further due to pandemic

For media and investors only

  • Prior to pandemic, less than half of adults received the vaccines recommended for their age group [1]
  • Vaccine demand declined an average of more than 60 percent across adult vaccines during height of pandemic [2]
  • Survey by The Harris Poll underscores importance of healthcare professional recommendations and need for increased education

Issued: Philadelphia, PA

A recent survey, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of GSK, finds that many adults ages 50-79 are unfamiliar with the vaccines recommended for them. The online survey of more than 3,000 US adults ages 50-79 (older adults) and more than 300 US primary care physicians indicates that adults are unlikely to receive many of the vaccines recommended for them:

  • Approximately 1 in 4 older adults have never heard of or are unfamiliar with the adult vaccines for shingles (27%), tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) (28%), and pneumonia (30%).
  • Many older adults say they are not likely to receive the influenza (i.e., flu) (28%), shingles (38%), Tdap (44%), or pneumococcal (i.e., pneumonia)[3]
  • (54%) vaccines.  
  • More than half of older adults have never heard of or are unfamiliar with the vaccines for hepatitis B (55%) and hepatitis A (56%).

“Low adult immunization rates have declined even further due to the pandemic, putting the country at risk for a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases. Manufacturers, healthcare providers and the entire public health community must redouble efforts to ensure older adults are fully immunized,” said Judy Stewart, Senior Vice President, Head of US Vaccines at GSK. “Increasing public health efforts to administer existing vaccines is as important as the efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.”

The pandemic has made older adults more aware of the dangers of infectious diseases and the importance of vaccinations, but that awareness has not converted into intent to seek vaccination. Seventy-two percent of older adults say that COVID-19 has made them realize how important vaccines are for everyone, but less than half (47%) report they are more likely to get at least one of the recommended vaccines for adults over the age of 50 as a result of the pandemic. 

“Unfortunately, we are seeing a steep decline in routine adult immunizations in recent months and this survey shows a continuing gap in knowledge of specific vaccines and intention to receive vaccination,” said Barbara Howe, MD, Vice President and Director, Vaccines Medical and Clinical, US at GSK. “Older adults need specific information about vaccine recommendations and they also need to know that healthcare providers and pharmacies have set up procedures to help ensure that people can be immunized safely now—you shouldn’t wait to be immunized.”

Despite understanding the value of vaccines, 46% of adults ages 50-79 give themselves a grade C or lower on their knowledge of vaccines that are recommended for adults their age, and 74% agree they need more information about adult vaccines.

In addition, more than three-quarters of primary care physicians (76%) report that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are now more likely to recommend at least one of the recommended vaccines for other diseases to their patients ages 50-79. This is important because, for older adults who have or are likely to receive an adult vaccine, the top reason they got or would get vaccinated is a recommendation from a healthcare professional (59%).

The CDC recommends vaccines for adults because immunity from childhood vaccines wears off over time. Adults are also at risk for different diseases compared to children and their risk generally increases over time because their immune systems weaken as they age.[4]

Adults ages 50 and older may need a number of vaccines, based on their age, underlying medical conditions, lifestyle, prior vaccinations and other considerations. Recommended adult vaccines protect against diseases like influenza, pneumococcal disease, shingles, hepatitis, pertussis and tetanus. 

Adults should talk to their doctor or pharmacist about all CDC-recommended vaccines they may need or may have recently missed. To learn more, visit www.broughtbyvaccines.com.

Research Method

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of GSK. The Consumer survey was conducted from July 14-August 4, 2020 among 3,007 US adults ages 50 to 79. The Physician survey was conducted from July 14-August 4, 2020 among 301 US physicians ages 18 and older who specialize in family practice/general practice/internal medicine and are duly licensed in the state where they practice. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Sean Clements, Head of US Vaccines Communications at GSK at +1 (215) 740-3088.

About GSK

GSK is a science-led global healthcare company with a special purpose: to help people do more, feel better, live longer. For further information please visit www.gsk.com/about-us.

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Cautionary statement regarding forward-looking statements

GSK cautions investors that any forward-looking statements or projections made by GSK, including those made in this announcement, are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Such factors include, but are not limited to, those described under Item 3.D "Risk Factors" in the company's Annual Report on Form 20-F for 2019 and any impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccination Coverage Among Adults in the United States, National Health Interview Survey, 2016. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/coverage/adultvaxview/pubs-resources/NHIS-2016.html.

[2] Drug distribution data from IQVIA for April and May 2020, showing change v. April and May 2019.

[3] Only shown to adults ages 50-79 who have not received the pneumococcal (i.e., pneumonia) vaccine as an adult or are not at all sure.

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine Information for Adults: Reasons to Vaccinate. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/reasons-to-vaccinate.html.