Vaccine distribution programs have historically targeted individuals at high risk of complications due to influenza. Despite recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, vaccination coverage among high-risk populations has been generally low. This review systematically summarizes the recent literature evaluating programs in different settings, from within medical settings to venue-based and community-based approaches, in an effort to identify successful program components. The published literature was identified by using the MEDLINE database from 1990 to 2006 covering studies that reported on interventions or programs aimed at vaccinating high-risk populations. The authors reviewed 56 studies. In the United States, the Healthy People 2010 goals included 90% vaccination coverage for adults aged > or = 65 years and 60% for high-risk adults aged 18-64 years. Only a handful of the studies reviewed managed to meet those goals. Interventions that increased vaccination coverage to Healthy People 2010 goals included advertising, provider and patient mailings, registry-based telephone calls, patient and staff education, standing orders coupled with standardized forms, targeting of syringe exchange customers, and visiting nurses. Few studies evaluated the impact of vaccination programs by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Few studies targeted individuals outside of the health-care and social services sectors. Given the growing disparities in health and health-care access, understanding the way in which interventions can remedy disparities is crucial.