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African-American Medicare Beneficiaries Less Likely than Whites to Receive Flu Shots Regardless of Plan Type

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Press Release Date: September 25, 2001

African-American Medicare beneficiaries are far less likely than white beneficiaries to receive flu shots, regardless of whether they are enrolled in managed care or fee-for-service plans, according to a study in the September 26, 2001, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The study was sponsored by the United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Researchers studied 13,674 respondents to the 1996 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey. They found that 68 percent of whites versus 46 percent of African-Americans received flu shots, a difference of 22 percentage points. In general, managed care beneficiaries were more likely than those in fee for service to receive flu shots—71 percent of health plan enrollees versus 65 percent of fee-for-service beneficiaries. However, the racial disparities in vaccination rates between whites and African-Americans were nearly the same for Medicare beneficiaries regardless of whether they were in fee-for-service or managed care plans. The disparities did not change when the researchers controlled statistically for other factors, including patients' attitudes toward medical care, gender, education, or other illnesses. Researchers conclude that more needs to be done to ensure that all beneficiaries, regardless of race, receive needed vaccines, as directed by Medicare in 1993.

Details are in "Racial Disparities in Influenza Vaccination: Does Managed Care Narrow the Gap Between African-Americans and Whites?" by Eric C. Schneider, M.D., M.Sc., Paul Cleary, Ph.D., Alan M. Zaslavsky, Ph.D., and Arnold M. Epstein, M.D., M.A.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1998 launched an initiative to address health disparities for racial and ethnic minorities, including a special focus on improving child and adult immunization rates for preventable diseases, including influenza. The initiative includes enhanced efforts at preventing disease, promoting health and delivering appropriate care, as well as research efforts. More information about the initiative is available at

Note to Editors: For further details or interviews with Dr. Schneider, contact Kevin Myron of the Harvard School of Public Health at (617) 432-3952.

For more information, please contact Salina Prasad, (301) 427-1864 (


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