Vaccine Report Calls for New Strategies to Increase Flu Immunization Rates in Older Adults

Expert Panel Identified Major Barriers to Influenza Immunization Among Racial Minorities, Including Older Adults with Low Socioeconomic Status and Chronic Health Conditions

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 8, 2019 – The Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality and Equity announced the publication of a summary report in Vaccine, the leading peer-reviewed journal focused on immunization science, urging health systems, providers and community stakeholders to implement evidence-based strategies to address racial disparities in influenza immunization. The manuscript, titled Effective and equitable influenza vaccine coverage in older and vulnerable adults: The need for evidence-based innovation and transformation, will be featured in the April issue of the publication.


The report was based on an April 2018 roundtable that convened experts in epidemiology, clinical research, behavioral economics, and psychology to discuss the issue of under- vaccination and racial disparities in older adults. As part of the meeting, the panel reviewed data on influenza epidemiology – particularly among African American and Hispanic populations – the impact of influenza on chronic disease exacerbation and efficacy of flu vaccines in older adults. These findings were the bases of several strategies identified to help rapidly increase immunization rates in older and vulnerable adults.

“Despite years of work and millions of dollars invested in vaccine development and education, we have failed to significantly raise vaccination rates in adults, particularly in people of color with chronic health conditions,” said Gregory Poland, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Mayo Clinic and lead author of the publication. “Urgent action is needed to address the barriers in this susceptible population and avoid a public health crisis resulting from inadequate immunization.”

In line with the report’s recommendations, the Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality and Equity, in partnership with Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi, launched a population health initiative known as DRIVE (Demonstrating Rising Influenza Vaccine Equity), aimed at improving influenza vaccination rates in underserved communities. The program, which will today be honored with the National Minority Quality Forum’s Excellence in Community Health Award, carried out pilot projects within several regional health systems and demonstrated significant improvements in immunization rates among racial minorities living with chronic disease.

“The panel pointed to several elements that exacerbate racial gaps in flu immunization, including systemic factors in clinical practice. Recognizing these barriers, we created DRIVE to implement practices that would apply a more presumptive approach to the value of vaccination,” said Laura Lee Hall, Ph.D., President, Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality and Equity. “The increase in vaccination rates to date reinforce the strategies laid out in Vaccine, and the impact of immunization in transforming population health outcomes.”

As part of their ongoing commitment to increasing coverage against influenza, the Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality and Equity and Sanofi have planned to expand the DRIVE demonstration projects for the 2019 – 2020 flu season. This includes a pilot program with Walmart tied to the company’s annual Wellness Day in July 2019.

About the Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality and Equity

The National Minority Quality Forum’s (NMQF’s) Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality and Equity (SHC) provides clinical teams and community leaders education, training and support in:

(1) Identifying gaps in health care and outcomes for all disease conditions, and (2) Implementing evidence-based quality improvement education and community- and patient-engagement.

SHC focuses on primary care in underserved and vulnerable communities, including people of color, rural populations, older adults, children, people with disabilities, and people with limited financial means, health literacy, and other social risks, identified through NMQF’s state-of-the-art health geographic information system (GIS).

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Media Contact
Laura Lee Hall, Ph.D.