Appropriately titled “Persistent Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Flu Vaccination Coverage,” the study was published Friday in the American Journal of Infection Control. Researchers based the study on the California Health Interview Survey conducted between 2011 and 2012, Southern California radio station KPCC reports.
According to the report, about 1 in 3 adult Californians receive their yearly flu shot, but the rates of vaccination tend to vary when examined along racial and ethnic lines. For example, Korean and Vietnamese residents came out on top, boasting immunization rates between 47 and 49 percent. Whites, Chinese, Japanese and Latinos all settled around the range of 40 percent. The vaccination rate among African-Americans was the lowest, coming in at 29 percent.
Lead researcher Dr. Christopher Almario said the large gap in the African-American community is one that needs to be examined further.
“The fact there is still a difference tells us there is something else underlying it, more likely their attitude toward the vaccine, their thoughts on preventative care in general, fears on getting the vaccine,” said Almario, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Almario also asserted that the low vaccination rates among Black Americans is no new phenomenon; previous studies have shown similar results of waning immunizations in the community.
So why aren’t Black folks lining up to get their flu shots?
“There’s been a number of other studies that show African Americans are more likely to believe they are going to get the flu from the vaccine and also more likely to doubt the vaccine’s effectiveness,” Almario said.
For the study, researchers made sure to adjust for economic and insurance access factors to identify other reasons people might be deterred from getting a flu shot, KPCC reports. Researchers say the next step is educating the public about the vaccine and how it works to protect the health of the individual and everyone else in the community.
The radio station reports that L.A. County Public Health is set to hold a dozen flu outreach events in the fall, focusing on communities in South Los Angeles, Watts and Compton, as well as African-American churches, senior citizen centers and farmers markets. The heath agency is also known for its yearly free clinic at Care Harbor, which offers free flu shots.