New report shows flu vaccine disparity

Fighting Flu Fatigue, a new report released by the Trust for America’s Health, found that the H1N1 flu hospitalization rates were nearly double for African-Americans, American Indian/Alaska Natives and Hispanics than for Caucasians in the 2009-2010 flu season.

African-American hospitalization rates were 29.7 percent per 100,000 people and Hispanic hospitalization rates were 30.7 percent per 100,000 people compared to Caucasian hospitalization rates of 16.3 percent per 100,000.

The report also showed that H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccination rates were lower among minority children and adults.

According to the report, during the 2009-2010 flu season, H1N1 vaccination rates were 9.8 percent lower for African-American adults and 4.2 percent lower for African-American children than for Caucasians. The rates were 11.5 percent lower for Hispanic adults than for Caucasians. Rates for H1N1 vaccination among Hispanic children, however, were 5.5 percent higher than with Caucasians.

“Following the H1N1 pandemic, we could take two different paths,” Jeffrey Levi, executive director of TFAH, said. “We could go back to a national complacency around the flu or we could build on the momentum of the pandemic response efforts to help spare millions of Americans from suffering yearly from the flu. Building on the work we’ve done could also better prepare the country for future disease outbreaks we may face.”

The Fighting Flu Fatigue report formed several conclusions based on the data from 2009-2010 flu season. These observations include that trust must be established with the public, pandemic and emergency response plans must be adaptable and science-driven, and that competing emergency declarations and laws must be better coordinated to provide protection and avoid confusion for volunteers.