Objectives: Influenza infects millions of people each year and contributes to tens of thousands of deaths annually despite the availability of vaccines. People most at risk of influenza complications are disproportionately represented in people incarcerated in US prisons and jails. The objectives of this study were to survey health administrators in Massachusetts county jails about institutional influenza vaccine policies and practices and estimate influenza vaccination rates in Massachusetts jails from 2013 to 2020.
Methods: In April 2020, we administered surveys to the health services administrators in Massachusetts' 14 county jails to gather information about influenza vaccination policies and delivery practices. To calculate influenza vaccination rates for each facility, we obtained data on influenza vaccine orders from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for each county in Massachusetts for influenza seasons 2013-2020. We calculated summary statistics for each reporting facility and each year, conducted a Kruskal-Wallis analysis to compare vaccination rates between years, and used a linear regression model to identify predictors of vaccination rates.
Results: Influenza vaccination rates in Massachusetts jails ranged from 1.9% to 11.8%. We found no significant differences in vaccination rates between years. Influenza vaccine ordering and delivery practices varied by jail, and respondents had high levels of confidence in influenza policies and vaccine delivery practices.
Conclusions: Influenza vaccination rates in Massachusetts jails are low, and delivery practices in jails vary. Lack of influenza vaccinations in jails is a gap in health care that needs to be prioritized, especially considering the current COVID-19 pandemic. Further investigations for effective and equitable vaccination in this population should involve people who are incarcerated and people who make influenza vaccine policies in jails.
Keywords: community health; correctional facilities/prisons; health policy; influenza; public health; vaccines.