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Adult Vaccination in Communities of Color

Each year, thousands of adults suffer from serious infectious diseases that in severe cases can result in hospitalization or even death. Even though there are vaccines available to help prevent a number of these potentially serious diseases, vaccination rates among U.S. adults remain low—lagging well behind federal goals and expert recommendations. Older African Americans and Hispanics are less likely than white adults to be vaccinated, leaving them at greater risk.

And, with chronic diseases like diabetes diagnosed at rates 77% higher among African Americans and 66% higher among Hispanics when compared to non-Hispanic whites, this leaves these individuals at greater risk for certain vaccine-preventable infectious diseases like pneumococcal pneumonia, the most common form of bacterial pneumonia. Still, research shows that Hispanics and African Americans are less likely to report receiving preventive health services in the ways experts recommend. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2015, only 50% of African Americans and 41% of Hispanics age 65 or older were vaccinated against pneumococcal disease compared to 68% for white adults of the same age.

Why aren’t more adult African-Americans and Hispanics getting vaccinated?

The answer is certainly not one-size-fits-all, but factors include limited access to preventive healthcare services, fear and mistrust of the medical community and language barriers. Certain socioeconomic characteristics play a role, too. Research shows that the risk of contracting potentially serious infectious diseases, like pneumococcal pneumonia, is dramatically increased in higher-poverty regions and communities. Candid conversations with healthcare providers can help clear up confusion or concerns about vaccines and other preventative health services.

What does all this mean for me?

It’s important that you speak with your healthcare provider about which preventive health services, including screenings and immunizations, are recommended for you. As we age, our immune systems weaken, increasing our risk for pneumococcal pneumonia, the flu, shingles, among other infectious diseases. The good news is that there are vaccines available that may help minimize your risk for certain serious infectious diseases.

Worried about the cost of preventive care? Here’s what you can do:

[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

References

  • 1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine Information for Adults. Why Vaccines are Important for You. Accessed July 20, 2016.
  • 2. Williams WW, Lu PJ, O'Halloran A, et al. Vaccination coverage among adults, excluding influenza vaccination — United States, 2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64(4):95-102.
  • 3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH). Accessed June 16, 2016.
  • 4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pneumococcal disease. In: Hamborsky J, Kroger A, Wolfe C, eds. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. Washington DC: Public Health Foundation; 2015:279-296.
  • 5. Lees K, Wortley PM, Coughlin SS. Comparison of racial/ethnic disparities in adult immunization and cancer screening. Am J Prev Med. 2005:29(5):404-411.
  • 6. Burton, Deron C. et al. “Socioeconomic and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in the Incidence of Bacteremic Pneumonia Among US Adults.” AM J Public Health. 100.10 (2010): 1904–1911. PMC. Web. 2 Aug. 2016.
  • 7. Weinberger B, Herndler-Brandstetter D, Schwanninger A, et al. Biology of immune responses to vaccines in elderly persons. Clin Infect Dis. 2008;46:1078-1084.
  • 8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adult Vaccination Resources. Resources for Adult Vaccination Insurance and Payment. Accessed July 20, 2016.
  • 9. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Adult Vaccination FAQs. Accessed July 20, 2016.