When I came to the pharmacy last month for my flu vaccine, it was the first time I walked into a store since the pandemic started. Walking down the bright hallways felt surreal, and as I stood at the counter waiting for my turn to take my turn, I listened to strangers talk about rising COVID-19 cases in our New York suburb.
When my name was mentioned, I carefully stepped into the tiny room and was grateful that both the technician and I were wearing masks. I was also grateful for how easy it was for me to get my vaccine, and the privilege I had gave me the freedom to get my shot.
Vaccinations and healthy adults
Most people know that the influenza vaccine is recommended for those with risk factors, but many don’t know that several other vaccinations are important for healthy adults as well. Dr. Lisa Larkin, founder of Ms. Medicine and a member of the HealthyWomen’s Women’s Health Advisory Council, emphasizes the importance of vaccines for adults, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, pneumococcal and shingles vaccines for certain individuals, and the influenza vaccine.
“We know [the flu vaccine] affects the severity of the disease by 40% to 60% and. . . has tremendous benefits for individuals in terms of preventing serious illnesses, “she said.
Vaccinations also protect those around you. This year, the pneumococcal and influenza vaccines are particularly important. According to Dr. Julita Mir, an infectious disease doctor, the less respiratory diseases we currently have, the better. Fewer cases of influenza and pneumonia mean more space in the healthcare system for patients with COVID-19. Vaccinations also help doctors with respiratory problems.
“The more people vaccinated, the more [it helps] Doctors find the way to make a diagnosis or treatment. . . Help yourself by helping your doctors diagnose you as early as possible, “Mir said.
Current vaccination numbers
Last year, only 48.4% of Americans over the age of 18 got the flu vaccine. A closer look at this figure reveals racial and socioeconomic differences: the influenza immunization rate for non-Hispanic white adults was 52.8%, while coverage for non-Hispanic black adults and Hispanic adults was only 41.2% and 38.3, respectively % scam.
The number of pneumococcal vaccines is also of concern. The 2017 National Health Interview Survey found that only 24.5% of adults surveyed who were at increased risk of developing pneumonia said they had ever developed pneumonia. (Most people will need a pneumococcal vaccine or two in their lifetime.) Again, there are differences. A 2019 study at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases found significantly lower numbers among non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics compared to non-Hispanic whites.
Racial and Socio-Economic Differences
Dr. Alanna A. Morris, assistant professor of medicine at Emory University, noted a lack of insurance as a reason for lower vaccination rates in marginalized communities. “If you look at minorities, the uninsured minorities are the least likely to get the vaccine. So part of those lower minority vaccination rates is related to lower insurance rates and lower access to health care in General,” said Morris.
Many states have failed to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and many adults make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough for private insurance. Hence, vaccine coverage suffers for both of these reasons. But even those with Medicaid may not have the coverage they need. A 2020 study found that most adult Medicaid beneficiaries do not have access to the 13 vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Susannah Labbe, medical director at Alliance Medical Center in Northern California, cited immigration problems as another barrier to vaccines. Many of their patients are immigrants applying for legal permanent residence and fear that free vaccines will make them ineligible. Under the final 2019 ruling by the Ministry of Homeland Security, any immigrant who is expected to receive public benefits for more than 12 months will not be eligible for legal permanent residence.
“You worry about that [accepting free vaccines] will make them a “public charge” and could affect their immigration status, “Labbe wrote in an email.
Labbe is struggling to tell patients that the rule doesn’t apply to vaccinations. “Education and reassurance are sometimes effective, but in the past this has resulted in patients willing to come to the clinic and have a discussion. That’s why we partnered with our local chapter on health care for information and We have community-wide vaccination events and we offer vaccinations at local food outlets, “Labbe said.
Morris and Mir also mentioned that deep distrust of the health system in the black community – a result of the long history of black people’s exploitation in the health industry – plays a large role in suppressing the vaccination rate in this population. This story includes the well-known Tuskegee Study and Henrietta Lacks incidents and much more. Morris notes that this is part of the conversation we had this year about implicit bias and that these issues need to be addressed as we move forward.
How to get vaccines
There are options for those struggling with getting vaccines. Many national food and pharmacy chains offer walk-in vaccines for certain vaccinations, including the flu shot. For the uninsured, options vary by location, but many county or health departments offer free or inexpensive vaccines.
The Health and Human Services website has useful information about paying for vaccines and getting inexpensive or free vaccines, as well as links to your national health department. VaccineFinder also makes it easy to keep track of where certain vaccines are available in your area.
While some resources are available, major changes still need to be made. Larkin argued that it should be easy.
“As a rich country, we should be able to figure out how to vaccinate our people,” she said.