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Physician Recommendations, Race Influence Flu Vaccine Rates

HOUSTON – Here’s a straightforward way to ensure your patients get vaccinated against influenza: Strongly recommend it.

According to a presentation at the recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 90% of patients received vaccination if their physician advocated for it, compared to 58% without the push from the doctor.

Race also was a factor, according to the research conducted by the Henry Ford Health System. The study, based on an anonymous survey at six Henry Ford Internal Medicine and Allergy clinics in metro Detroit between April and August 2013, found that vaccination rates were higher in whites, 93%, and Asians, 84%, compared to African Americans, 62%. Researchers theorized that that African Americans might not trust the vaccination's benefit, noting that, in general, vaccination rates were four times higher among patients who believed immunization protected them vs. those who thought otherwise.

Vaccination rates were not significantly affected, however, by adverse reactions such as soreness at the injection site or fever.

"What our findings show is that we need to improve our communications between physicians and patients about the benefits of the flu vaccination," explained lead author Melissa Skupin, MD, a Henry Ford fellow. "Our study showed the benefit of physicians who take a proactive approach in recommending vaccination to their patients. At the same time, we need to re-think our strategy for addressing the perceptions and myths associated with vaccination. The misinformation out there is pervasive."

The 10-question survey, which asked patients 18 and older if they received a flu vaccination the previous year, their perceptions of vaccination and demographic information, was distributed to 1,200 patients, with 472 completed surveys returned.

“The influenza vaccine is recommended for patients older than 6 months of age, yet the [national Center for Disease Control and Prevention] notes adult vaccination rates to be as low as 45%,” the authors write. “Specific reasons for declining vaccination are not well understood. The aim of this study was to identify factors associated with patients’ likelihood to receive the influenza vaccine to elucidate how to improve vaccination rates.”

In conclusion, they add,” Interventions to increase flu vaccination rates may need to focus on improving physician recommendations and communicating benefits of the vaccine. Better understanding of vaccine perceptions among black individuals is warranted.”