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A Map of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Influenza Vaccine Uptake in the Medicare Fee-for-Service Program.

Abstract

This study considers demographic, clinical, and geographic correlates of influenza vaccination among Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) beneficiaries in 2015-2016 and maps the data on a geographic information system (GIS) at the zip code level.

Despite improved understanding of the risks of influenza and better vaccines for older patients, influenza vaccination rates remain subpar, including in high-risk groups such as older adults, and demonstrate significant racial and ethnic disparities.

Analyses confirm that only half of the senior beneficiaries evidenced a claim for receiving an inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV), with significant disparities observed among black, Hispanic, rural, and poorer beneficiaries. More extensive disparities were observed for the high-dose (HD) vaccine, with its added protection for older populations and confirmed economic benefit. Most white beneficiaries received HD; no non-white subgroup did so. Mapping of the data confirmed subpar vaccination in vulnerable populations with wide variations at the zip code level.

Urgent and targeted efforts are needed to equitably increase IIV rates, thus protecting the most vulnerable populations from the negative health impact of influenza as well as the tax-paying public from the Medicare costs from failing to do so.

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