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Most people with asthma in U.S. don't get a flu shot

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Despite being at increased risk for influenza-related complications, almost two-thirds of people with asthma in the US are not vaccinated against influenza each year, according to an analysis of data from the 2005-2006 flu season.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended since 1964 that all persons with asthma get a flu shot, because they’re prone to complications if they do catch influenza.

“This report presents the first estimates of influenza vaccination coverage in the US among the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of persons with asthma and reinforces the need to increase vaccination throughout this at-risk population,” investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasize.

The findings, which appear in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, come from a study of 1248 subjects with asthma who completed the 2006 National Health Interview Survey. Just 36 percent of respondents were vaccinated against influenza between September 2005 and February 2006.

The vaccine coverage rate did improve if patients had experienced asthma problems. Among those with an asthma attack in the previous 12 months, 38 percent had a flu shot, as did 42 percent of those who had had to go to the emergency room or seek urgent care for asthma.

Vaccination rates increased with the individual’s age: in pediatric patients, rates did not exceed 30 percent, while in patients 65 years and older, rates did not fall below 80 percent.

The respondents were more likely to get the vaccine if they had insurance coverage, a usual place for healthcare, and higher family income. The odds of being vaccinated also increased as the number of healthcare visits rose, yet even among subjects with 10 or more visits, the coverage rate was just 51 percent.

The findings suggest that more needs to be done to achieve the Healthy People 2010 goal of influenza vaccine coverage for at least 60 percent of individuals with high-risk conditions, the researchers state.

SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 20, 2008.

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