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Open Access Research article

Racial differences in influenza vaccination among older americans 1996–2000: longitudinal analysis of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD) survey

Truls Østbye12*, Donald H Taylor12, Ann Marie M Lee1, Gary Greenberg1 and Lynn van Scoyoc2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University Medical Center Box 3914, Durham, NC 27710, United States of America

2 Center for Health Policy, Law and Management, Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke University Box 90253, Durham, NC 27710, United States of America

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BMC Public Health 2003, 3:41  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-3-41

Published: 16 December 2003

Abstract

Background

Influenza is a common and serious public health problem among the elderly. The influenza vaccine is safe and effective.

Methods

The purpose of the study was to determine whether frequencies of receipt vary by race, age group, gender, and time (progress from 1995/1996 to 2000), and whether any racial differences remain in age groups covered by Medicare. Subjects were selected from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) (12,652 Americans 50–61 years of age (1992–2000)) and the Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD) survey (8,124 community-dwelling seniors aged 70+ years (1993–2000)). Using multivariate logistic regression, adjusting for potential confounders, we estimated the relationship between race, age group, gender, time and the main outcome measure, receipt of influenza vaccination in the last 2 years.

Results

There has been a clear increase in the unadjusted rates of receipt of influenza vaccination for all groups from 1995/1996 to 2000. However, the proportions immunized are 10–20% higher among White than among Black elderly, with no obvious narrowing of the racial gap from 1995/1996 to 2000. There is an increase in rates from age 50 to age 65. After age 70, the rate appears to plateau. In multivariate analyses, the racial difference remains after adjusting for a series of socioeconomic, health, and health care related variables. (HRS: OR = 0.63 (0.55–0.72), AHEAD: OR = 0.55 (0.44–0.66))

Conclusions

There is much work left if the Healthy People 2010 goal of 90% of the elderly immunized against influenza annually is to be achieved. Close coordination between public health programs and clinical prevention efforts in primary care is necessary, but to be truly effective, these services must be culturally appropriate.