Study Finds Racial Disparities in Flu Shots
African Americans in both Medicare+Choice plans and traditional fee-for-service Medicare receive influenza vaccinations "persistently less" often than white beneficiaries, according to a new study in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. In the study, titled "Racial Disparity in Influenza Vaccination: Does Managed Care Narrow the Gap Between African Americans and Whites?" researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School analyzed responses from 13,674 participants in the 1996 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey and found that 67.7% of white beneficiaries received flu vaccinations, while only 46.1% of African-American beneficiaries received vaccinations. Researchers also found that 71.2% of Medicare managed care beneficiaries received flu vaccinations in 1996, while only 65.4% of beneficiaries in fee-for-service Medicare received vaccinations. However, they found no "statistically significant reduction in racial disparity" among Medicare beneficiaries in managed care plans. Researchers said that limited minority access to primary care, "failure" of providers to vaccinate patients during visits, "limited awareness" among minority patients about the "need for vaccination" or "misconceptions" about costs, adverse effects and benefits of vaccinations may contribute to the disparity in flu vaccinations. According to the study, "Health plans, physician groups and public health agencies will need to develop new strategies to reduce racial disparity in influenza vaccination" (Schneider et al., JAMA, 9/26).