And the author says family doctors could help improve matters by moving adult vaccinations up from the bottom of the heap when it comes to practice priorities.
Dr. Vivien Brown of McMaster University in Hamilton says adults aren't being routinely immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases such as tetanus.
Brown says a national survey in 2006 found fewer than 47 per cent of adults were properly immunized for tetanus.
She calls the rate of vaccination with the pneumococcal vaccine abysmal; only 39 per cent of adults over 65 got that vaccine, which protects against serious infections in the lungs, blood and brain.
Her study was published in the journal Canadian Family Physician.
Brown says doctors have a responsibility to educate and inform patients so that they can make good decisions. But doctors often don't have the time to run through a comprehensive preventive care checklist with each patient as they struggle to look after patients with acute and chronic health conditions.
She says, though, that both doctors and patients can do a better job. And patients should pay attention to the status of their immunizations in the way they do the drugs they take and their drug allergies, she said.