• health care delivery;
  • influenza;
  • vaccination;
  • race/ethnicity;
  • underserved populations;
  • disparities

BACKGROUND: Despite known benefits of influenza vaccination and coverage by Medicare Part B, elderly minority patients are less likely to receive influenza vaccination than whites.

OBJECTIVES: To test whether a nonphysician-initiated standardized offer of influenza vaccination to all elderly primary care patients would result in similar proportions of African-American and white patients accepting vaccine.

DESIGN: In 7 metropolitan Detroit primary care practices during the 2003 influenza vaccination season, medical assistants assessed influenza immunization status of all patients 65 years and older and collected limited demographic data. Eligible patients were offered vaccination.

MEASUREMENTS: Proportion of patients accepting influenza vaccination by race and predictors of vaccine acceptance.

RESULTS: Four hundred and fifty-four eligible patients with complete racial information were enrolled: 40% African American, 52% white, 8% other race/ethnicity. Similar proportions of African Americans and whites had already received the 2003 vaccine (11.6% and 11.0%, respectively) or stated vaccination as the reason for visit (23.8% and 30.5%, respectively). Among the remainder, there also were similar proportions who accepted vaccination: 68.9% white and 62.1% African-American patients. History of previous vaccination was the only statistically significant predictor of vaccine acceptance (odds ratio [OR] 8.64, 95% confidence interval [CI] 4.17, 17.91, P<.001). After adjusting for history of previous vaccination, age, gender, and education, the odds of vaccine acceptance were no different for whites and African Americans (OR 1.20, 95% CI 0.63, 2.29, P=.57).

CONCLUSIONS: Vaccination acceptance differed little between African-American and white elderly patients. Using nonphysician personnel to identify and offer influenza vaccine to eligible patients is easily accomplished in primary care offices and has the potential to eliminate racial disparities in influenza vaccination.