Racial and ethnic disparities in flu and pneumonia immunization rates persist despite full Medicare coverage according to an issue brief released today by AARP at its Diversity and Aging in the 21st Century Conference in Los Angeles, CA. Both diseases are preventable with vaccines that are offered free by Medicare, however, older African-Americans and Hispanics are less likely than their white counterparts to take advantage of these life-saving immunizations.

"We need to pay close attention to the needs of diverse aging populations, so that there is no divide or disparity in the quality of health care and information they receive," said AARP Chief Diversity Officer Percil Stanford.

In 2004, two-thirds of whites 65 years and older received flu vaccines, compared with just 45 percent of African Americans and 55 percent of Hispanics. The gap is even wider for pneumonia with only 39 percent of older African Americans and 34 percent of older Hispanics, reporting having been vaccinated, compared with 61 percent of whites.

Collectively these diseases are responsible for over 200,000 costly hospitalizations and 41,000 deaths each year. The large majority of these cases occur among older adults, who are especially susceptible to complications resulting from these illnesses.

"Immunizations are critical to our public health system as well; keeping people healthy is more efficient and economical than caring for people after they get sick. More needs to be done to increase awareness and improve immunization rates. The best solution lies in community-based education and awareness programs," said Stanford.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50 + educators; and our website, aarp. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Tag Cloud