Physician recommendations can boost flu shot rates

A reminder from a physician to get a flu shot can help reduce the racial disparity in who gets vaccinated for the flu, according to research published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data from a national survey in which 3,418 Americans of different races answered questions about their willingness to get vaccinated if their healthcare provider strongly recommended it to them during a visit.

They found that 42.6 percent of white participants were vaccinated in the 2009-2010 flu season, but just 32.6 percent of black respondents and 30.1 percent of Hispanic respondents got the flu shot — even though they visited healthcare providers at the same rate as white Americans.

Based on this information and information on self-reported willingness to get vaccinated, the researchers estimated the overall number of missed opportunities was between 10 and 20 percent, and higher for racial and ethnic minorities. If healthcare providers offered flu shots more frequently, adult vaccination rates could increase 50 percent or more for all racial and ethic groups and halve the flu shot racial disparity.

"Improve office-based practices regarding influenza vaccination could significantly impact Healthy People 2020 goals by increasing influenza vaccine uptake and reducing corresponding racial and ethnic disparities," said Jurgen Maurer of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, who led the research.

Healthy People 2020 is the nation's goals and objectives for health promotion and disease prevention, headed by HHS. One of its goals is to increase immunization rates and reduce preventable infectious diseases, such as influenza.

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