Something new to think about for flu season

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

It's September, which means the leaves will soon start to change color, everything in the grocery store will now have a pumpkin spice-flavored option (I'm a PSL gal myself), and we'll soon have to break our cozy clothes out of storage.

Oh, and flu season is about to begin.

Allow me to get ahead (slightly) of the deluge of news articles, press releases and conference sessions on influenza and vaccinations that are about to hit, with the results of a new study throwing a new wrench into vaccination efforts: race.

The research, published last Thursday in Health Services Research, took a look at racial and ethnic differences in both influenza and pneumococcal vaccination among nursing home residents following the implementation of federal rules requiring all residents to receive the shots.

The study's University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and RAND Corporation-based researchers examined data on the vaccination status of more than 100,000 residents at nearly 750 nursing homes.

Their findings showed that black residents were less likely than white residents to receive both the influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations. Hispanic residents also had a greater likelihood of not being offered the pneumococcal vaccination, compared to white residents.

Within the individual facilities, however, Hispanic residents were more likely than white residents to receive both vaccines.

The study's authors reported that their results are the first to find differences persisting in how different racial groups of nursing home residents receive their vaccination, despite federal efforts to even the playing field.

The solution, they wrote, is “focused strategies aimed at NH [nursing home] personnel” and facilities with high concentrations of minority residents. Those strategies are crucial for facilities looking to improve their vaccination delivery and eliminating care disparities, the researchers said.

Perhaps your facility is a flu season rock star, with no vaccination disparities in sight. If not, take the researchers' findings to heart and pay a bit more attention to vaccination patterns and residents' demographics this flu season. It would do more good than drinking that third pumpkin spice latte would.

Follow Staff Writer Emily Mongan @emmongan.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.