In a commentary in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, University of Maryland School of Public Health Dr. Sandra Quinn, a professor in the department of family science and a senior associate director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity, looks at the results from her research team’s multiple studies to identify important factors that can improve vaccine uptake. They find that making a difference in vaccine uptake will require a multi-level effort. She suggests some particular roles and strategies for health care providers, public health agencies, and African American communities and families to “literally move the needle to increase seasonal flu vaccination.”
[Photo: Dr. Sandra Quinn]
Dr. Quinn and her team have been exploring flu vaccine uptake, acceptance, and disparities since 2012. When she started this branch of research, one thing was already clear: flu vaccine uptake overall falls short of CDC recommendations and uptake among African Americans is even lower than it is for whites. Dr. Quinn and her team have been conducting research to understand why the disparity exists, and more importantly, how to close the gap and increase uptake for African Americans.
“Given that research tells us that minorities rely more frequently on medical than non-medical settings (workplace, drug store, grocery store) for vaccination, working with health care providers is a critical step to reducing vaccine disparities,” Dr. Quinn said. She identifies health care providers and public health agencies as critical components to improving uptake. For example, public health agencies can and should do more to develop effective communication tools that address knowledge gaps related to influenza, the vaccine, and perceived risks of the vaccine.
Increasing vaccination among African Americans “will require that health care providers, public health agencies and African American families change knowledge, attitudes and social norms around the flu vaccination,” Dr. Quinn continued. “Those efforts, coupled with health care providers changing their practices to ensure that all high-risk African Americans receive both a recommendation, an offer, and effective communication about the vaccine.”
The article, African American adults and seasonal influenza vaccination: Changing our approach can move the needle, was published in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics.