Background: Racial/ethnic disparities in influenza vaccine coverage of adults aged 65 years and older persist even after controlling for access, healthcare utilization, and socioeconomic status. Differences in attitudes toward vaccination may help explain these disparities. The purpose of this study was to describe patient characteristics and attitudes toward influenza vaccination among whites and African Americans aged 65 years and older, and to examine their effect on racial disparities in vaccination coverage.
Methods: A cross-sectional telephone survey of Medicare beneficiaries in five U.S. sites, sampled on race/ethnicity and ZIP code. Multivariate analysis controlling for demographics, healthcare utilization, and attitudes toward influenza vaccination was conducted in 2005 to assess racial disparities in vaccine coverage during the 2003-2004 season.
Results: The analysis included 1859 white and 1685 African-American respondents; 79% of whites versus 50% of African Americans reported influenza vaccination in the past year (p < 0.00001). Both vaccinated and unvaccinated African Americans were significantly less likely than whites to report positive attitudes toward influenza vaccination. Even among respondents with provider recommendations, respondents with positive attitudes were more likely to be vaccinated than those with negative attitudes. After multivariate adjustment, African Americans had significantly lower odds of influenza vaccination than whites (odds ratio = 0.55, 95% confidence interval = 0.42-0.72).
Conclusions: A significant gap in vaccination coverage between African Americans and whites persisted even after controlling for specific respondent attitudes. Future research should focus on other factors such as vaccine-seeking behavior.