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Misconceptions lead Medicare recipients to miss flu shots.

A lack of knowledge about the need for influenza vaccination, misconceptions about the flu, and misconceptions about the vaccine and its side effects were the most common reasons cited by people aged 65 years and older when asked why they had not received a flu shot for the 2001-2002 flu season.

The Medicare Current Beneficiary Service (MCBS) has tracked flu vaccinations since 1991, and its data show that the percentage of Medicare recipients who received flu shots increased each year until 2000, when 70% of Medicare beneficiaries received shots (MMWR 2004;53:1012-5). The vaccination rate dropped to 67% for the 2000-2001 season and 68.8% for the 2001-2002 season.

The top reasons for not receiving a vaccination, reported by 10%-15% of those surveyed, were unawareness that they needed a shot, fear that it would cause the flu, fear of side effects, and belief that the vaccine would not prevent flu. During the 2000-2001 season, when a vaccine shortage occurred, 10%-15% of those surveyed cited a lack of available vaccine as a reason for nonvaccination, and 5%-10% of those surveyed during the 2001-2002 season cited this same reason.

Flu vaccination rates appeared to increase again between 2002 and 2003, with a median national coverage of 69.9% for persons aged 65 years and older, according to data from the 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, a random telephone survey of the United States civilian, noninstitutionalized population aged 18 years and older (MMWR 2004;43:1007-12).

The BRFSS survey included data from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Minnesota had the highest vaccination rate among people 65 years and older (80.3%), and the U.S. Virgin Islands had the lowest rate (34.9%).
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Title Annotation:Infectious Diseases
Author:Splete, Heidi
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2004
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