Although elderly individuals have a high risk of complications from flu or pneumonia, a study recently reported in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine indicates that significant racial and ethic disparities exist for immunizations. Hispanic seniors are less likely to be immunized than non-Hispanic White seniors, with an especially striking difference for pneumococcal immunizations. The authors suggest several factors for these disparities:
- language preference is an important factor for immunization, with considerably larger disparities for Spanish-preferring than English-preferring Hispanic seniors
- geographic factors that determine whether Spanish-preferring seniors live in large Hispanic communities or in linguistically-isolated “new communities”
- type of available Medicare or managed care plan with respect to uniform preventive care
In terms of increasing immunization among Hispanic seniors, the article states that the findings “have important implications for increasing immunization among Hispanic seniors, suggesting that further efforts are needed to improve cultural and linguistic access to care. In particular, geographic targeting of the subgroups at greatest risk, in combination with surname lists and health literacy mapping, may help optimize outreach and targeting of vaccine resources.”
Haviland AM, Elliott MN, Hambarsoomian K, Lurie N. Immunization disparities by Hispanic ethnicity and language preference. Arch Intern Med. 2011, Jan. 24; 171(2): 158-65.