Oct 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

CDC: Black, Hispanic and Indigenous adults more likely to get hospitalized for flu

Photo of yard signs saying "Flu shots now"

Signs at a HyVee supermarket store advertising flu shots at the pharmacy in Maplewood, Minnesota on Dec. 6, 2021. Photo: Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Black, Hispanic and Indigenous adults are more likely to get hospitalized for the flu and less likely to be vaccinated against it compared to white adults, according to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday.

The big picture: The report, which comes amid an early start to flu season in the U.S., highlights the work needed to close gaps in access to care.

Driving the news: The study, which analyzed data from the last 13 flu seasons, found that Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native adults were 1.2 to 1.8 times more likely to get hospitalized compared to white adults — and had more severe outcomes.

  • During the 2021–22 season, 53.9% of white adults were vaccinated compared to 37.9% of Hispanic adults, 40.9% of American Indian and Alaska Native adults and 42% of Black adults.
  • This disparity — which was present among those who reported having medical insurance, a personal health care provider and a routine medical check-up in the past year — was largely attributed to "distrust of the medical system, misperceptions about vaccine safety, and higher levels of concern about side effects," researchers wrote.

Worth noting: This same distrust also led to lower COVID vaccination rates among Black people.

What they're saying: "Racial and ethnic disparities in influenza disease severity and influenza vaccination coverage persist," noted the study, which highlighted the importance of building trust and combating misinformation among communities of color.

  • These groups might "face barriers to affordable, quality health care, including access to health insurance, transportation to health providers, and child care; therefore, they might have fewer opportunities for preventive health care and increased vulnerability to chronic medical conditions," researchers wrote.
  • " Higher prevalences of chronic medical conditions have been independently associated with more severe influenza outcomes, and downstream effects of structural racism have been demonstrated to affect economic stability, housing, and education," the study stated.
  • Poverty, crowded housing, and community exposure to respiratory diseases are also associated with more severe outcomes.

The bottom line: "Tailored programmatic efforts to provide influenza vaccination through nontraditional settings, along with national and community-level efforts to improve awareness of the importance of influenza vaccination ... among racial and ethnic minority communities might help address health care access barriers and improve vaccine confidence, leading to decreases in disparities in influenza vaccination coverage and disease severity," the study said.

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