Florida State University Study Finds Racial Disparity in Flu Shots Among Adolescents

A study by researchers at Florida State University found significant racial differences in influenza vaccine rates between Black and White adolescents. The disparity is a major public health concern. During the winter of 2014-15, more than 710,000 people were hospitalized for influenza and there were 80,000 flu-related death.

Researchers had hoped that after the passage of the Affordable Care Act that the racial disparity in flu vaccinations would disappear. But this has not been the case. And the Black-White gap has actually increased in recent years.

Benjamin Dowd-Arrow, a graduate student at Florida State University and a co-author of the study, believes that targeted interventions are needed to improve influenza vaccination rates and reduce racial/ethnic disparities in adolescent vaccination coverage. “Parents are hesitant to vaccinate their children and adolescents because of lack of information, concerns about side effects, lack of access of health care due to cost or inadequate transportation,” Dowd-Arrow said. “These are areas that, if addressed by public health officials, could ultimately have great public health as well as economic impacts.”

Another concern voiced by Dowd-Arrow is that “the Black population is also more likely to reside in multigenerational homes, where there is a very real threat of unvaccinated teenagers spreading the flu to unvaccinated children and grandparents.” These groups are particularly at risk for major complications if they get the flu.

The full study, “Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Influenza Vaccination Coverage Among US Adolescents, 2010-2016,” was published in the journal Public Health Reports. it may be accessed here.

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