Flu vaccinations for low income areas should be given first, study says

A recent study by Dr. Bruce Lee of the University of Pittsburgh suggests that flu vaccines should be given to low income areas first to best prevent an epidemic in case of a shortage.

Lee, the lead author of the study, said that influenza typically spreads faster through poorer communities since those areas are more often densely populated. In addition, Lee said that the vaccine is frequently limited in epidemic situations like the H1N1 virus and poor areas are not often considered first in those situations, WDUQ News reports.

“When vaccines are in short supply, distributing them quickly and equitably among populations and localities can be a difficult challenge,” Lee, an assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology and biomedical informatics at the University of Pittsburgh, said, according to UPMC. “However, policymakers across the country, in poor and wealthy areas alike, have an incentive to ensure that poorer residents have equal access to vaccines.”

Using a computer simulation of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan areas, Lee demonstrated that depriving low income populations of vaccines increased the spread of the flu in all areas, no matter how wealthy – more so than in any other situation. Lee said the study showed that giving the flu vaccine to poor communities is a moral decision and that it has an impact on every part of the population.

Lee said that distributing the flu vaccine must be done equitably because all populations are interconnected.