Sagging flu vaccination rates have been less than impressive overall for the 2010 season. Many health care workers and those in the general population have declined vaccination for a variety of reasons that have rainy around the fear of side effects, to the desire to build natural immunity and simple hard-headedness. In an attempt to improve vaccination rates, the Dept. of Health and Human Services in conjunction with Walgreens stores across the country are now offering free flu shots to 15 underserved US communities. Data has shown that a flu vaccination rates, and vaccines in general are lower for communities and population groups of lower socioeconomic status.
Walgreens will be providing over 350,000 doses of flu vaccine to these high risk population groups. This project started with a $10 million donation from Walgreens, and they will begin distributing vouchers to eight United States communities as the project gets underway, then branching out to others as the program continues.
Starting with larger cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Oakland California, and Philadelphia, vouchers will be distributed to customers and will be exchanged for one free flu shot in the Walgreens pharmacy, Duane Reade pharmacy in New York, or Take Care Clinic. The project is working to increase vaccination rates among the Hispanic and African-American communities–two groups that traditionally have much lower vaccination rates when compared to other ethnic groups.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only about one third of the American population is currently immunized. In order for this nation to see a broad-based immunity, it is recommended that at least 90% of the general population be vaccinated. We are very far from this number.
The attempt to raise vaccination rates in the African-American and Hispanic communities is twofold. Due to the higher rate risk of diabetes and heart disease in these populations, medical officials are hoping to lower the complication rate associated with flu for those who have chronic illnesses.
Vouchers for a vaccine are being distributed through several different community outreach efforts. Patients will be reminded of the opportunity vaccination through the mail and by phone reminders, and outreach to businesses, schools, senior and family service centers and even on the radio. Health and Human Services is also working to remind the general public that the flu vaccine is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and for those who do not have vaccine coverage, the Vaccines for Children program will also cover the costs.
We knew this was coming. Multiple attempts by the government to raise vaccination rates through extensive advertising and other methods was an anticipated move to help the general public in an attempt to bring about a sense of security when it comes to flu vaccination.
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