New Initiative Aimed at Improving Immunization Disparities Among Ethnic and Minority Populations

BETHESDA, Md. -- The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) today launched a national Disparities in Vaccination Initiative aimed at educating health care providers about vaccination disparities and encouraging the adoption of culturally sensitive immunization practices to help increase immunization rates among ethnic and minority populations.

Two reports, which NFID issued today to more than 13,000 healthcare professionals responsible for infection control and epidemiology, highlight the disparity problem. Among adolescent and adult ethnic and minority populations, disparities in immunization remain an important public health concern. The reports also show that childhood immunization rates in some urban areas with large minority populations are lower than the general population.

NFID developed the reports following two expert roundtables that addressed barriers to vaccination and identified strategies for achieving full immunization. One report covers immunization gaps among children, and the other deals with adolescents and adults.

"Ethnic and minority groups consistently suffer from disparities in immunization," said William Schaffner, MD, an NFID director and professor and chairman, Department of Preventive Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases is launching this national educational effort to increase vaccination rates and reduce these disparities. Closing gaps in immunization is essential to ensure everyone in society is protected against vaccine--preventable infectious diseases."

In addition to the reports, the initiative will include development of educational programs that specifically target physicians. NFID is currently developing a model curriculum that medical schools can use to design educational programs that support immunization and incorporate cultural sensitivity/awareness into practice. In addition, NFID plans to schedule presentations at major medical meetings in 2003 to review information published in the reports.

"There is a general lack of awareness among healthcare providers about immunization disparities, and this initiative is an important step toward providing the critical information and tools needed to improve vaccination rates," said Rudolph Jackson, MD, professor of pediatrics and associate director, office of International Health Programs, Morehouse School of Medicine and the National Medical Association (NMA) liaison to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

NFID's roundtable participants, who helped spearhead the initiative, included some of the nation's leading infectious disease experts. They represented diverse health organizations representing minorities, including the National Medical Association, National Council of La Raza, Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum and the CDC's National Immunization Program.

The experts stressed that vaccination gaps in adults in the U.S. are much wider than gaps among children, and overall adult coverage rates for most vaccines are under 70 percent. According to the CDC, only 48 percent of African American and 57 percent of Hispanic adults aged 65 years of age and older are routinely immunized against influenza compared to 67 percent of whites.

Disparities for pneumococcal vaccination are even wider with 30 percent of Hispanics and 31 percent of African Americans receiving the vaccine compared to 57 percent of whites.

For pediatric immunizations nationally, overall there are few differences between whites and various minority groups for receipt of childhood immunizations. However, regional and local vaccination rate disparities over 10 percent persist in localized, usually urban areas, with large minority and ethnic populations. Locally, decreased immunization levels have the potential danger for increasing vulnerability to resurgence of disease.

Founded in 1973, NFID is a non-profit organization dedicated to public and professional educational programs about, and in support of, research into causes, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases.

NFID's Disparities in Vaccination Initiative is made possible by an unrestricted educational grant to NFID from Aventis Pasteur.

NFID's Disparities in Vaccination Initiative is made possible by an unrestricted educational grant to NFID from Aventis Pasteur.

Source: The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases