Study: Flu Vaccine Rates Are Lowest for Individuals Without Regular Health Care Providers

Results of analysis suggest that pharmacists can play a crucial role in increasing annual vaccinations.

Vaccination rates for influenza are low for those who have regular health care providers but are still more than twice as high for those without health care providers, according to research results presented at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ (ASHP) virtual 2021 Midyear Clinical Meeting & Exhibition.

The research results show that about 44.5% of individuals with health care providers are vaccinated for the flu, but only about 20.5% of individuals without health care providers are vaccinated.

“This research reminds us that under-vaccination and vaccine hesitancy are not limited to COVID-19,” Sinmileoluwa Okegbile, a PharmD candidate at Midwestern University in Arizona, said in a statement.

“Low vaccination rates for the flu persist among those living in the United States, even though vaccines can prevent severe illnesses, hospitalization, and death. Our study suggests a need for a fresh approach to counteract hesitancy,” Okegbile said.

Investigators started the study to help identify predictors of flu vaccinations that will help pharmacists tailor efforts to increase vaccination rates.

Anna Legreid Dopp, the ASHP’s senior director of clinical guidelines and quality improvement, who was not involved in the study, said that pharmacists are well-equipped to address the gaps identified in the study.

“Pharmacists are accessible to most people, even those without a consistent relationship with another health care provider, and they have a unique opportunity to initiate conversations about vaccines and then order and administer the vaccine,” she said. “Having open and respectful conversations around vaccines, including both COVID-19 and influenza, while easing access for patients, is the best way to increase vaccination rates.”

The study results show that demographic characteristics and risk perceptions are the most prominent factors that can influence vaccine hesitancy.

To determine the rates of flu vaccination, investigators analyzed more than 2.5 million health survey records from the CDC’s 2015, 2017, and 2019 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System. All individuals included in the study were from the United States and aged 18 years or older.

The findings showed that flu vaccinations were lowest among Black and Latino individuals at 32% and 31%, respectively, compared with 41% of white individuals.

The vaccination rates rose with the number of medical conditions an individual was experiencing. About 82% of those with 4 or more obesity-related conditions had been vaccinated for the flu.

The rates also steadily increased with age, and about 60% of individuals over the aged 65 years were vaccinated compared with less than one-third of those aged 18 to 25 years.

“Awareness of predictors of influenza vaccination can equip pharmacists with information to help them develop targeted services to support those less likely to be vaccinated,” Okegbile said.

Reference

Flu vaccine rates lowest for people without regular healthcare provider. EurekAlert. News release. December 7, 2021. Accessed December 8, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/937008