The Flu Can Be Devastating

Racial and ethnic minorities experience higher rates of severe influenza (flu) illness and hospitalization.

They have higher rates of flu-related hospitalization, Intensive Care Unit admission and in-hospital death.

  • Flu vaccine disparities place communities of color at increased risk of serious illness and death from the flu at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a large toll, and threatens to do so again in the 2021-22 flu season.
  • Reducing respiratory illnesses in the community is important in the effort to protect at-risk populations and the healthcare systems that serve them.

Systematic Racism in Medicare

A recent article and commentary in the British medical journal, Lancet Healthy Longevity, found racism as the “originating factor” in determining differences in vaccine rates between white and minority beneficiaries in Medicare.

African American and Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries are at heightened risk for severe influenza because they are significantly less likely than white beneficiaries to receive seasonal influenza vaccines.

Even when vaccinated, minority Medicare beneficiaries, including Asian Americans, are routinely administered a less effective vaccine.

Flu Facts and Myths


Influenza is not a serious illness.


In years when influenza is widespread in the U.S., tens of thousands of people may die from influenza or its complications, such as pneumonia. Influenza can lead to serious illness in seniors, 65 years and older, and in other high-risk groups.


The influenza vaccines can give me influenza.


The flu shot, an inactivated influenza vaccine, cannot give you influenza. The vaccine contains killed influenza viruses that cannot cause infection.


The vaccines do not work because I still get influenza.


There are many different types of viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms any time of the year, but these are not actually the influenza virus. Even if you do contract influenza, the severity is less than if you do not receive the vaccine.


No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians. If you have questions about which vaccine is best for you, talk to your doctor or other health care professional.