Center For Disease Control: Importance of Flu Vaccinations in the African American Community

With the winter months still upon us, it’s important to stay on top of our health, including flu vaccinations. Though many often hear old folks say you need to get your flu shot, not many fully understand why. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have provided the following information to provide awareness within the Black community.

 

What is the flu? The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death. Common symptoms of flu include fever/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

Why is it important to get a flu vaccine every flu season? While anyone can get the flu, even healthy people, some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick, such as young children and people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes (type 1 and 2), and heart conditions.

Why is it important for African Americans to get a flu vaccine? What are the yearly statistics for African Americans versus other races/ethnicity when it comes to vaccinations? 

African Americans with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and who are extremely obese (BMI >40) are at higher risk for serious flu-related complications. To reduce sickness and death caused by influenza in the United States, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends annual flu vaccination for all persons aged ≥6 months who do not have contraindications to vaccination.(1) The following statistics breakdown the coverage received by African Americans versus other races/ethnicity groups obtaining the vaccine.

Coverage by Race/Ethnicity

All Ages (6 months and older)

  • The patterns of racial/ethnic differences in influenza vaccination coverage estimates differ for children and adults, but estimates for children and adults combined (all people ≥6 months) are presented here.
  • Among people ≥6 months, coverage for non-Hispanic whites (46.6%) was higher than that of non-Hispanic blacks (42.8%), Hispanics (43.9%), and people of other or multiple races (42.4%).
  • In addition to the previously mentioned differences, coverage for Asians (51.3%) was higher than non-Hispanic whites (46.6%), non-Hispanic blacks (42.8%), Hispanics (43.9%), AI/ANs (46.0%), and people of other or multiple races (42.4%). For all other racial/ethnic group comparisons, there were no statistically significant differences.
  • Among all people ≥6 months, coverage during the 2015–16 season decreased by 1.9 percentage points for non-Hispanic whites compared with the 2014–15 season; there were no statistically significant changes in the other racial/ethnic groups.
Table 5. Flu Vaccination Coverage* by Race/Ethnicity, People 6 Months and Older, United States, 2015–16 Season
Race/Ethnicity†† Unweighted Sample Size % ± 95% CI§ Difference from the 2014-15 Season ± 95% CI
Overall 446,013 45.6 ± 0.4 -1.5 ± 0.5||
White only, non-Hispanic 323,931 46.6 ± 0.5 -1.9 ± 0.7||
Black only, non-Hispanic 38,499 42.8 ± 1.3 -1.0 ± 1.8
Hispanic 44,020 43.9 ± 1.4 -0.4 ± 1.9
Other, non-Hispanic (Total) 35,069 47.1 ± 1.9 -0.5 ± 2.5
 Asian 12,368 51.3 ± 2.7 0.3 ± 4.0
 American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) 6,611 46.0 ± 3.6 0.8 ± 5.1
 Other or multiple races‡‡ 16,090 42.4 ± 2.9

-1.9 ± 3.8

Children (6 months through 17 years)

  • Asian children (73.5%) had higher parental-reported flu vaccination coverage than non-Hispanic white children (55.3%), non-Hispanic black children (60.9%), Hispanic children (64.7%), AI/AN children (60.7%), and children of other or multiple races (57.0%).
  • Additionally, non-Hispanic white children (55.3%) had lower parental-reported flu vaccination coverage than non-Hispanic black children (60.9%) and Hispanic children (64.7%). Non-Hispanic black children (60.9%) had lower flu vaccination coverage than Hispanic children (64.7%). Children of other or multiple races (57.0%) had lower coverage than non-Hispanic black children (60.9%) and Hispanic children (64.7%). For all other racial/ethnic group comparisons, there were no statistically significant differences.
  • Among children, estimated coverage during the 2015–16 season did not change compared with the 2014–15 season for any of the racial/ethnic groups.
Table 6. Flu Vaccination Coverage* by Race/Ethnicity, Children 6 Months–17 Years, United States, 2015–16 Season
Race/Ethnicity†† Unweighted Sample Size % ± 95% CI§ Difference from the 2014-15 Season ± 95% CI
Overall 126,846 59.3 ± 0.8 0.0 ± 1.1
White only, non-Hispanic 73,660 55.3 ± 0.9 -0.7 ± 1.3
Black only, non-Hispanic 13,717 60.9 ± 2.1 2.6 ± 3.3
Hispanic 23,568 64.7 ± 2.0 0.5 ± 2.7
Other, non-Hispanic (Total) 15,901 64.8 ± 2.4 -1.2 ± 3.3
 Asian 6,002 73.5 ± 3.5 1.4 ± 4.9
 American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) 1,867 60.7 ± 7.4 -6.3 ± 9.5
 Other or multiple races‡‡ 8,032 57.0 ± 3.1 -3.0 ± 4.5

Adults (18 years and older)

  • Among adults, self-reported flu vaccination coverage for non-Hispanic whites (44.5%) was higher than for non-Hispanic blacks (36.6%), Hispanics (34.4%), and adults of other or multiple races (36.4%).
  • Additionally, Asian adults (44.0%) reported higher flu vaccination coverage than non-Hispanic blacks (36.6%), Hispanics (34.4%), and adults of other or multiple races (36.4%). AI/AN adults (42.9%) reported higher flu vaccination coverage than non-Hispanic blacks (36.6%), Hispanics (34.4%), and adults of other or multiple races (36.4%). For all other racial/ethnic group comparisons, there were no statistically significant differences.
  • Among adults, coverage during the 2015–16 season decreased by 2.2 percentage points for non-Hispanic white adults compared with the 2014–15 season; there were no statistically significant changes in the other racial/ethnic groups.
Table 7. Flu Vaccination Coverage* by Race/Ethnicity, Adults 18 Years and Older, United States, 2015–16 Season
Race/Ethnicity†† Unweighted Sample Size % ± 95% CI§ Difference from the 2014-15 Season ± 95% CI
Overall 319,167 41.7 ± 0.4 -1.9 ± 0.6||
White only, non-Hispanic 250,271 44.5 ± 0.6 -2.2 ± 0.8||
Black only, non-Hispanic 24,782 36.6 ± 1.6 -2.1 ± 2.3
Hispanic 20,452 34.4 ± 1.8 -0.6 ± 2.5
Other, non-Hispanic (Total) 19,168 41.0 ± 2.4 -0.3 ± 3.3
 Asian 6,366 44.0 ± 3.3 -0.4 ± 5.0
 American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) 4,744 42.9 ± 4.1 2.2 ± 5.8
 Other or multiple races‡‡ 8,058 36.4 ± 3.9 -1.0 ± 5.1

What can be done to prevent influenza and bring awareness? The first and most important step in protecting against the flu is to get a yearly flu vaccine. In addition to getting a seasonal flu vaccine, you can take everyday preventive actions like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. Also, there are prescription medications called antiviral drugs that can be used to treat influenza illness.

Strategies to increase flu vaccination coverage in the United States include: 

  • Encouraging use of evidence-based practices at medical sites to increase access to vaccination services (e.g., reducing client costs and vaccination programs in schools and WIC settings), increasing community demand for vaccinations (e.g., client reminder/recall systems), and ensuring that all those who visit a provider during the flu season receive a vaccination recommendation and offer from their provider (e.g., standing orders and provider reminders).(5)
  • Expanding access through use of non-traditional settings (e.g., pharmacy, workplace, and school venues) to reach individuals outside of traditional physicians’ offices during the flu season.(6)
  • Broadening use ofinterventions to remove barriers to accessing vaccination.(7)
  • Encouraging multi-sector collaborations, including culturally relevant communications to reach specific target populations, and implementing effective interventions to reduce vaccination disparities in the United States.(8)
  • Additional strategies are described in the Community Guide for Preventive Services.(5)

Updated recommendations have been published for the 2016-17 flu season.(1) Updated information includes 1) the composition of U.S. seasonal flu vaccines; 2) the expected flu vaccine products available for the 2016-17 season; and 3) an interim recommendation to not use the live, attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) for the 2016-17 season due to concerns about effectiveness of LAIV against influenza A (H1N1) viruses.(1)

All of the above information can be found on the CDC’s website, and it represents the 2015-16 season.

SOURCE:  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/fluvaxview/coverage-1516estimates.htm#by-race

Written By: Dr. Walter A. Williams

Walter Williams MD, MPH Medical Epidemiologist Assessment Branch, Immunization Services Division National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Dr. Williams has held a number of leadership positions during his more than 30 years at CDC, including serving as the principal advisor to CDC Executives on health disparities and minority health issues. He has published extensively and spoken at regional and national symposia on topics related to epidemiology, public health, and preventive medicine. He holds faculty appointments at the Morehouse Medical School and the Emory University School of Public Health, and is the Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the Residency in Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine. Dr. Williams is a Diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the National Board of Medical Examiners and a Fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine.

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