AVAC Spotlight: Litjen (L.J.) Tan, MS, PhD, Immunization Action Coalition

AVAC Spotlight: Litjen (L.J.) Tan, MS, PhD,
Chief Strategy Officer of Immunization Action Coalition

If you have a question regarding adult immunizations, Dr. Litjen (LJ) Tan is the person to call.  Having spent his whole career at the forefront of advancements in adult vaccine research, accessibility, and development, LJ is one of the most qualified and accessible people to talk about adult vaccinations, to say the least!

LJ is the chief strategy officer of the Immunization Action Coalition, co-chair and co-founder of the National Adult and Influenza Immunization Summit, and Board Member of the Adult Vaccine Access Coalition (AVAC). He has also served as a voting member of the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC).

On May 17-18, LJ, and the Immunization Action Coalition, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, co-hosted the National Adult and Influenza Immunization Summit (NAIIS) in Atlanta, GA. The gathering included hundreds of professionals from the federal government, public health, private medical sectors, vaccine manufacturers and distributors, and consumers—all dedicated to preventing illness, disability, and deaths through the use of recommended vaccines.

The US spends an estimated $26 billion annually to care for those who get vaccine-preventable diseases. Patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or chronic heart disease, are at higher risk of developing vaccine-preventable diseases. Yet adult vaccine rates remain far too low.  This is why LJ and other Summit attendees get together to discuss ways to address and resolve adult immunization challenges—in particular, increasing accessibility to all recommended vaccines.

LJ notes one way to achieve higher immunization rates is to reduce coverage barriers.  The cost of adult vaccines can be a significant barrier for patients. For example, addressing coverage differences under Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D is an especially big challenge. Beneficiaries receiving vaccines covered under Medicare Part B (Flu, pneumococcal, Hepatitis B) do not have to pay any out-of-pocket expenses, but beneficiaries receiving vaccines under Medicare Part D (Shingles, TDAP) have to pay anywhere from $14-102). That’s one reason why vaccination rates for Medicare Part B vaccines are so much higher compared to rates for Part D vaccines.

There are financial barriers for providers as well, with respect to the purchase of and reimbursement for vaccine administration. Provider costs include direct up-front vaccine purchases, storage equipment (refrigerator/freezer, temperature monitoring devices), labor, tracking, and power supply maintenance.

This year, the summit highlighted work taking place among providers and pharmacists to implement the standards for adult immunization practice.  Key working groups also provided updates on ways to reduce barriers to access and providers, innovations in quality measures, and new tools to get the word out on influenza.

Thanks to the advocacy of Dr. LJ Tan, and the work of the NAIIS community, we have an opportunity to address barriers to adult vaccines, and to join together to help the public understand that adult vaccine effectiveness MUST include discussion beyond preventing incidence of disease!