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Open Access Research article

Influenza immunization in Canada’s low-income population

Jennifer Leigh Hobbs* and Jane A Buxton

Author Affiliations

School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:740  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-740

Published: 21 July 2014



Immunization offers the best protection from influenza infection. Little evidence describes disparities in immunization uptake among low-income individuals. Higher rates of chronic disease put this population at increased risk of influenza-related complications. This analysis examines if the type of main source of household income in low-income groups affects influenza immunization uptake. We hypothesized that individuals on social assistance have less access to immunization compared to those with employment earnings or seniors’ benefits.


Data was obtained from the Canadian Community Health Survey annual component 2009-2010. A total of 10,373 low-income respondents (<20,000$ Canadian per annum) were included. Logistic regression, stratified according to type of provincial publicly funded immunization program, was used to examine the association between influenza immunization (in the last 12 months) and main source of household income (employment earnings; social assistance as a combination of employment insurance or worker’s compensation or welfare; or seniors’ benefits).


Overall, 32.5% of respondents reported receiving influenza immunization. In multivariable analysis of universal publicly funded influenza immunization programs, those reporting social assistance (AOR 1.24, 95% CI 1.02-1.51) or seniors’ benefits (AOR 1.56, 95% CI 1.23-1.98) were more likely to be immunized compared to those reporting employment earnings. Similar results were observed for high-risk programs.


Among the low-income sample, overall influenza immunization coverage is low. Those receiving social assistance or seniors’ benefits may have been targeted due to higher rates of chronic disease. Programs reaching the workforce may be important to attain broader coverage. However, CCHS data was collected during the H1N1 pandemic influenza, thus results may not be generalizable to influenza immunization in non-pandemic years.

Immunization; Vaccination; Influenza; Flu; Socioeconomic status; Low-income; Social determinants; Health; Canada