Pregnant Women, Elderly, Minorities Not Getting Flu Shot

Analysis of 2003-2004 data suggests education, access are keys to increasing coverage

MONDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Many at-risk populations, including the elderly and pregnant women, are still not receiving the annual influenza vaccination, according to two reports in the Oct. 21 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. And the analysis of the 2003-2004 flu season suggests that coverage disparities continue to exist among minorities.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers analyzed data from the 2003 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to see if target vaccination goals are being met in the elderly (65 years or older) and younger (18-64 years) at-risk patients. They found that only 65.6% of 5,538 elderly subjects and 34.1% of 4,238 younger, at-risk adults received the shot. However, in the elderly, 68.7% of whites, 48% of blacks, and 45.4% of Hispanics were vaccinated, as were 35.8% of whites, 30.4% of blacks and 27% of Hispanics who were in the high-risk category.

The NHIS data also show that only 13% of pregnant women received the flu vaccine in 2003. The CDC, in association with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, surveyed a sample of OB/GYNs in May 2004 to see if women are getting adequate education and access to the vaccine. The group found that 52% of physicians recommend vaccination for women in the first-trimester, and 95% would do so for women in the second and third trimesters. However, 36% to 38% of OB/GYNs who recommend the shot do not offer it at their practice.

New strategies that increase awareness and streamline access to the vaccine should be implemented to increase coverage in these populations, the reports conclude.

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