Flu Vaccination Up Among Asthma Patients, But Still Short of Targets

Aimee Simone, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Friday, December 13, 2013
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A new report from the CDC finds that almost 50% of asthma patients received a flu shot in the 2010-2011 season, compared with 36% of asthma patients in the 2005-2006 season.

During the 2010-2011 flu season, Americans with asthma were more likely to get a flu shot than were those without the condition and had higher coverage rates than asthma patients did during the 2005-2006 season, a new report finds. However, despite this coverage increase, vaccination rates among asthma patients still failed to meet targets.
 
Influenza vaccination is especially important for asthma patients as the flu can worsen asthma symptoms and is more likely to cause complications such as pneumonia in these patients. For these reasons, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended since 1964 that all asthma patients aged 6 months and older receive the vaccine. In 2010, these guidelines were broadened to include all Americans older than 6 months, regardless of asthma status. The current report, published in the December 6, 2013, issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, estimates vaccination coverage among asthma patients for the first flu season after the recommendation change.
 
Information on the influenza vaccination status of asthma patients aged 2 years and older was collected from the 2010 and 2011 National Health Interview Survey. The data was then analyzed to determine how rates of vaccination coverage were affected by age, family income, health insurance coverage, race and ethnicity, frequency of health care visits, and whether a patient had a routine place of care.
 
A total of 32,636 survey respondents were analyzed, 2809 of whom reported having current asthma. During the 2010-2011 season, 49.6% of asthma patients received a flu shot, compared with just 36% of patients who reported asthma during the 2005-2006 flu season. Vaccination coverage was not significantly different among asthma patients who reported an asthma attack in the previous year and those did not report attacks or an emergency department visit. Coverage was also similar among those who had visited the emergency department within the previous year and among those who did not.
 
Among asthma patients, those aged between 50 and 64 years and those aged 65 years and older had the highest coverage rates (61.7% and 76.5%, respectively).  Having a usual place for health care was also a significant factor affecting coverage; 52.0% of asthma patients with a routine place of care were vaccinated, compared with 19.2% of those without one. Asthma patients were also significantly more likely to be vaccinated than were patients without the condition; just 37.5% of respondents without asthma were vaccinated during the 2010-2011 season.
 
Although influenza vaccine coverage has improved among asthma patients, the report notes that coverage rates are still well below the Healthy People 2020 targets of 80% coverage of children aged 6 months to 17 years and 90% coverage of adults at high risk. “These findings highlight the need to educate health-care providers and persons with asthma about the importance of annual influenza vaccination,” the report states.
 
An editorial note included in the report suggests multiple strategies to increase coverage rates, including interventions to reduce the cost of vaccination, remind patients of the importance of vaccination, and increase vaccine accessibility to asthma patients.

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