Purpose: Racial and ethnic disparities in influenza vaccination among the elderly are well documented, but their impact on minority mortality is unknown.
Methods: We model racial and ethnic parity in influenza vaccination on reduction in annual minority deaths among the elderly using age-, sex-, race-, and ethnicity-specific influenza vaccination data from the 2002 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, national mortality data and a relative risk (0.89; 95% confidence interval 0.80-0.98) for all-cause mortality during influenza season associated with vaccination. We also estimate the impact of 90% influenza coverage (Healthy People 2010 objective) on annual minority and white deaths. Lastly, we estimate years of minority lives saved from parity in annual vaccination beginning at age 65.
Results: Parity in influenza vaccination would reduce elderly minority deaths by 1880 annually. Achievement of 90% vaccination coverage would reduce minority and White deaths by 3750 and 11,840 annually. Parity in vaccination beginning at age 65 and continuing through out life would save more than 33,000 minority years of life.
Conclusions: Based on conservative estimates, elimination of racial and ethnic disparities in influenza vaccination would significantly reduce elderly minority mortality and save substantial years of minority life.