Flu-Shot Disparities in Underserved Communities the Target of Informational Campaign

Flu-Shot Disparities in Underserved Communities the Target of Informational Campaign

Winter in Michigan is hard enough with cold, snowy days and long nights, but it’s also the beginning of flu season. There isn’t much you can do about the weather, but there are ways to arm yourself against seasonal influenza. A flu shot is the best protection from the dreadful illness, although some people avoid vaccination because of common misconceptions.

There are many myths about the flu and the flu shot, including the common notion that the flu shot will make you more susceptible to getting the illness. These myths perpetuate health disparities in under-served communities.

A 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control reported a record number of seasonal flu vaccine doses overall but also indicated disparities in immunization coverage rates among minority adult populations (18 years and older), the uninsured and under-insured, and the elderly.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan joined a national effort to promote the importance of the annual flu shot, particularly among populations that have lower immunization rates.

“It is important to continue educating the public, particularly underserved populations because their participation rate is lower,” said Jerry Johnson, M.D., the Blues’ executive medical officer.

The Blues are committed to addressing health disparities and are targeting these communities with information about flu vaccinations, as well as a call to action to get the shot. Below is a quick summary of myth-busting facts about flu provided by the American Lung Association.

Myth:

Influenza is no more than a nuisance, much like the common cold, that cannot be prevented.

Fact:

Influenza, commonly referred to as “the flu,” is a severe respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications, even death. You can help avoid getting influenza by getting vaccinated each year.

Myth:

You can get influenza from a flu shot.

Fact:

The flu shot does not contain the live virus so it is impossible to get influenza from the vaccine.

Myth:

Only the elderly are at risk for developing serious complications from the influenza virus.

Fact:

Influenza impacts people of all ages. However, a significant number of people in the US are at a higher risk for getting sick or developing serious complications from influenza, including young children and the elderly.

Myth:

I missed the chance to get an influenza vaccination in the fall, so now I have to wait until next year.

Fact:

You and your loved ones can get vaccinated at any point during the influenza season.

Myth:

It is not necessary to get immunized against influenza every year if you were immunized in the past.

Fact:

The types of influenza viruses circulating in the community change from year to year. Because of this, a new vaccine is made each year to help protect against the current strains.

Myth:

People shouldn’t be immunized against influenza if they are sick.

Fact:

Minor illnesses with or without fever should not prevent vaccination, especially in children with mild upper respiratory infections (colds) or upper respiratory allergies. In addition, vaccination is critically important for people with chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease who have a higher risk for developing influenza-related complications.

Myth:

I seem to get the stomach flu each year. My friend told me the influenza vaccine might prevent the stomach flu next year.

Fact:

Many common respiratory and stomach infections are often mistakenly referred to as “the flu.” Influenza vaccine helps protect against influenza virus but not against viral gastroenteritis, often called the “stomach flu.”

Myth:

The flu changes every year, so getting a flu shot will not protect me from getting sick.

Fact:

Influenza is unpredictable and viruses change throughout the year. That is why the composition of the influenza vaccine changes each year as well.

Getting vaccinated annually is the best way to help protect against influenza. Visit the CDC website to learn more, or check out this video discussing the company’s efforts to promote the immunizations in underserved communities.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94pSMjaC1Xo&w=560&h=315]

There is still time to get your flu shot! You can also click here to find a flu clinic near you.

Photo by MBK

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *