2014 Issues   /   January 2014

Veterans Have Higher Rates of Flu Vaccination

By US Medicine

NORTH HILLS, CA — Compared with the general population, veterans are more likely to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza and H1N1, according to a new study.

Led by researchers from the Veterans Emergency Management Evaluation Center (VEMEC) in North Hills, CA, a new study sought to determine the factors influencing the decision to be immunized, noting that the higher rate for veterans could provide some clues. 1

Study authors suggest that the higher vaccination rate among veterans may be because of better access to healthcare services, although they call for future studies examining the difference between veterans who use VA medical care compared to those who do not.

In general, a review of the 2010 U.S. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), showed that veterans, women, non-Hispanic whites, nonsmokers, those at high risk, those who use clinics as a usual source of care as well as more educated Americans with health insurance were more likely to receive both H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccinations.

Vaccination rates were higher for seasonal flu but not H1N1 among those who were older, married and had higher income. H1N1 immunization appeared to be more influenced by age and number of children living in the household, according to the authors.

“Veterans of the U.S. armed forces tend to be older and have more chronic health problems than the general adult population, which may place them at greater risk of complications from influenza,” the authors wrote, noting that seasonal influenza vaccination rates for the general adult population remain well below the national goal of 80%.

“From a policy perspective, the findings on family income and marital status suggest that outreach programs for people from lower-income backgrounds or who may be more isolated [widowed, never married, etc.] would be more effective at improving access to vaccinations for seasonal flu than H1N1,” according to the report. “In an integrated delivery system such as the VA, electronic reminder systems have been successfully used at point of care to increase adherence to clinical practice guidelines for a number of health conditions and services, including vaccinations. However, efforts are needed to improve the delivery of care to all veterans, both VA health care system users and non-users alike.”

1 Der-Martirosian, C, Heslin KC, Mitchell MN, Chu K, Tran K, Dobalian A. Comparison of the Use of H1N1 and Seasonal Influenza Vaccinations Between Veterans and Non-veterans in the United States, 2010. BMC Public Health 2013, 13:1082 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-1082.

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