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Nursing Homes Not Meeting Flu-Shot Goals, Study Says

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- The percentage of nursing home residents in the United States who receive a seasonal flu shot is lower than the national goal, and the rate is lower for blacks than for whites, a new study finds.

Brown University researchers examined annual patient records from more than 14,000 nursing homes over three flu seasons, 2006-07 to 2008-09.

The overall flu vaccination rate for nursing home residents in 2008-09 was 82.75 percent, below the goal of 90 percent set by Medicare and Medicaid. The rates were 83.46 percent for whites and 77.75 percent for blacks.

The 2008-09 rates for both whites and blacks were slightly higher than the 2006-07 rates of 82.62 percent for whites and 75.42 percent for blacks.

Overall, in 2008-09, blacks were about 23 percent less likely than whites to receive a flu vaccination. In individual nursing homes, black residents were about 15 percent less likely to be vaccinated than their white neighbors.

The study appears in the October issue of the journal Health Affairs.

"One reason you would potentially see a difference is that blacks and whites are by and large served by different nursing homes and there's lots of evidence to suggest that blacks are served in nursing homes that are not as good," senior author Vincent Mor, professor of health services policy and practice, said in a university news release. "However, we also see a pretty persistent difference within the same homes, although it is not as large and it has lessened over time."

Another reason for the disparity is that black nursing home residents are more likely to refuse flu vaccinations than white residents, the study suggests. In 2008-09, 12.88 percent of blacks refused flu vaccination, compared with 8.93 percent of whites.

Further research should investigate if black residents' higher refusal rate has to do with how flu vaccination is offered, Mor suggested.

"The way to address the within-facility disparity is to find out why there are these refusals and determine better ways of communicating the vaccine's benefits that specifically addresses patients' reluctance and refusal," he said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about flu vaccination.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCES: Brown University, news release, Oct. 5, 2011

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