Between 70% and 85% of influenza-related deaths occur in people aged 65 and older, with older adults living in U.S. nursing homes at high risk for respiratory infections, including flu. It’s also known that flu vaccination rates among U.S. nursing home residents did not meet the Healthy People 2020 goal of 90%, which presents a challenge since the influenza vaccination decreases the risk and severity of infection. As infection risk diminishes, so does risk of subsequent adverse outcomes, such as hospitalization and mortality.
These are just a few of the telling points featured in a national study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The research was created to help identify a way to increase the nursing home resident vaccination rate.
A key study takeaway concluded that there exists a significant county-level variation in flu shot use among short- and long-stay nursing home residents. According to the study objectives, identifying where these variances are could help initiate and guide quality improvement interventions that target nursing homes located in counties with lower risk-standardized vaccine use.
To accomplish all this, researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study using 2013–2015 fee-for-service Medicare claims, Minimum Data Set assessments, Certification and Survey Provider Enhanced Reports, and “Long-Term Care: Facts on Care in the U.S.”
The study cohort included more than 2.8 million residents in 14,658 nursing homes across 2798 counties.
In summary, the national study authors concluded that their findings could be used by local public health authorities and clinicians to target interventions to improve vaccine use in counties with both high rates of infection and low rates of vaccine use in their nursing homes.