Sustainable Healthy Communities has released a report, Effective and equitable influenza vaccine coverage in older and vulnerable adults: The need for evidence-based innovation and transformation, in Vaccine urging health systems, providers and community stakeholders to implement evidence-based strategies to address racial disparities in influenza immunization.
The report was based on an April 2018 roundtable which convened experts in epidemiology, clinical research, behavioral economics and psychology to discuss the issue of under-vaccination and racial disparities in older adults. As part of the meeting, the panel reviewed data on influenza epidemiology – particularly among African American and Hispanic populations – the impact of influenza on chronic disease exacerbation and efficacy of flu vaccines in older adults. These findings were the bases of several strategies identified to help rapidly increase immunization rates in older and vulnerable adults.
“Despite years of work and millions of dollars invested in vaccine development and education, we have failed to significantly raise vaccination rates in adults, particularly in people of color with chronic health conditions,” said Gregory Poland, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Mayo Clinic and lead author of the publication. “Urgent action is needed to address the barriers in this susceptible population and avoid a public health crisis resulting from inadequate immunization.”
In line with the report’s recommendations, Sustainable Healthy Communities, in partnership with Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi, launched a population health initiative known as DRIVE (Demonstrating Rising Influenza Vaccine Equity), aimed at improving influenza vaccination rates in underserved communities. The program carried out pilot projects within several regional health systems and demonstrated significant improvements in immunization rates among racial minorities living with chronic disease.
“The panel pointed to several elements that exacerbate racial gaps in flu immunization, including systemic factors in clinical practice. Recognizing these barriers, we created DRIVE to implement practices that would apply a more presumptive approach on the value of vaccination,” said Laura Lee Hall, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, Sustainable Healthy Communities. “The increase in vaccination rates to date reinforce the strategies laid out in Vaccine, and the impact of immunization in transforming population health outcomes.”