Are you getting the right flu vaccine?
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
Myth: Influenza is not a serious illness.
Fact: 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.
Myth: The influenza vaccines can give me influenza.
Fact: The flu shot, an inactivated influenza vaccine, cannot give you influenza. The vaccine contains killed influenza viruses that cannot cause infection.
Myth: The vaccines do not work because I still get influenza.
Fact: 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.
NMQF convened experts, clinicians, and community leaders to review flu vaccination equity and identify any necessary steps to assure protection for communities of color. Persistent growing racial and ethnic flu vaccine disparities were found. With the continuing impact of COVID-19 and mistrust, expanded efforts are needed, in collaboration with community leaders, to optimally protect communities of color from the flu and COVID-19. Learn more.
A CALL FOR COMMUNITY-DRIVEN EQUITY IN FLU VACCINATION
INCREASED FLU VACCINATION HAS NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT TO COMMUNITIES OF COLOR
Standard vs. Senior Flu Vaccine
Flu vaccination is especially important for people 65 years and older because they are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications.
Flu vaccines are updated each season to keep up with changing viruses. Also, immunity wanes over a year so annual vaccination is needed to ensure the best possible protection against flu. Because immunity may decrease more quickly in older people, it is especially important that this group is not vaccinated too early (in July or August). September and October are generally good times to be vaccinated for people 65 years and older.
The Senior Dose Vaccine is intended to give people 65 years and older a better immune response to vaccination, and therefore, better protection against flu.
Those over 65 years of age have decreased immunity that comes with age and also because they are more likely to have other coexisting health conditions, such as heart disease or Type 2 diabetes that leave them more vulnerable to the flu’s effects.
Mobilize Your Knowledge For Better Protection
Given Medicare’s failure to address the flu vaccine disparity, putting minority seniors at risk for severe influenza, we must mobilize in this time of COVID-19 to make sure that seniors are administered the flu vaccine.
We are asking you to become a health champion in your community.
Call to action: Educate and inform your medical providers, churches, civic associations, social clubs and patient advocates.
Get the Vaccine
Those infected with the flu virus can spread the virus, even if they have virtually no symptoms.
Good health reduces risk of a bad outcome. Facing the virus without the protection of a vaccine is risky behavior. Seniors and those living with chronic conditions should not take the risk.
The vaccine is typically covered by most health insurance plans and Medicare. You can get it at many pharmacies or at your physician’s offices.