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Knowledge and Beliefs About Influenza, Pneumococcal Disease, and Immunizations Among Older People


Address correspondence to Richard K. Zimmerman, MD, MPH, Department of Family Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 3518 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15261. E-mail:


OBJECTIVES: Despite the burden of disease caused by influenza and pneumococcus, immunization rates are moderate and have not reached national goals set for 2010. This study's objective was to identify patient knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs that serve as facilitators of and barriers to influenza and pneumococcal vaccination.

DESIGN: A survey conducted in 2000 by computer-assisted telephone interviewing.

SETTING: To encounter a broad spectrum of patients and healthcare systems, we sampled patients at inner-city health centers, Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinics, and rural and suburban practices.

PARTICIPANTS: Inclusion criteria were patients aged 66 and older and an office visit after September 30, 1998.

MEASUREMENTS: Responses to questionnaire.

RESULTS: Overall, 1,007 (82%) interviews were completed among 1,234 people contacted by phone. Vaccination against pneumococcal disease was significantly related to being able to accurately describe one or more classic symptoms of pneumonia (P = .05). Vaccination against influenza and pneumococcal disease was significantly related to belief that vaccination was the best way to prevent these diseases (P < .001). The unvaccinated reported that they felt they were not likely to contract influenza and that they did not know they needed the pneumococcal vaccine. Access was not related to vaccination status.

CONCLUSIONS: Educational campaigns to increase vaccination rates among older adults should focus on symptoms of, risk for, and severity of influenza and pneumococcal diseases and encouraging physicians to recommend the vaccines to their patients.