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Despite risk, older African-Americans more likely than others to avoid flu vaccine
Date:10/23/2009

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A study about why African American seniors do or do not get influenza vaccinations finds that many of them do not have accurate and complete information about the flu itself, the safety and efficacy of the inoculations, and the ease and necessity of getting the shots.

Co-author and health communications specialist Lance Rintamaki, PhD, assistant professor of communication at the University at Buffalo, says that in addition, misinformation about the notorious 1932-72 Tuskegee syphilis studies of African-American men may result in a lingering distrust of some public health inoculation programs.

The study was published in Health Communications.

It notes that, despite the risk of influenza-related medical complications among those 65 years and over, African American seniors are less likely to be vaccinated against flu than are non-Hispanic white seniors.

Rintamaki points out that, although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wants to have 90 percent of seniors vaccinated, the vaccination rates for American adults 65 years and over averages 65 percent -- but is only 48 percent among older African Americans.

This is of great concern in the medical community, he says, because 44,000 Americans 65 and older die from influenza and its complications every year, compared to a total of 7,000 flu-related deaths in all other age groups.

According to Rintamaki, the researchers found several reasons for the reluctance of African American seniors to get flu shots.

"One," he says, is that study subjects did not understand how often they need to be vaccinated. Some seniors thought that, like vaccines against common childhood illnesses, the flu vaccine provided lifelong protection against the flu. Many did not know they needed to be re-vaccinated every year.

"The participants knew there are different strains of influenza," he says, "but they didn't realize they needed to be vaccinated against each strai
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Contact: Patricia Donovan
pdonovan@buffalo.edu
716-645-4602
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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