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For Release: November 27, 2012 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications - 405/271-5601

Persons with Chronic Diseases and African American Adults at Risk from Flu
African American Adults Have Lower Flu Vaccination Rates 

Did you know that while the flu can make anyone sick, people with long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes (type 1 and 2), and heart disease are at greater risk for complications from the flu? Serious flu complications like pneumonia and bronchitis can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Many adults who live with these chronic diseases do not receive the flu vaccine.

Oklahoma state health officials are particularly concerned that nationwide surveys show low flu vaccination levels among African American adults. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that during last year’s influenza season, flu vaccine coverage for adults 65 years of age and older in Oklahoma was higher for non-Hispanic white adults at 63.1 percent, compared to non-Hispanic black adults at 50.7 percent.

 “We are concerned that flu vaccine coverage is lower for African American adults in Oklahoma than for other groups. We urge everyone to get the protection flu vaccine provides,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline.

Public health officials emphasize that both the flu shot and the nasal spray flu vaccine have excellent safety records and are constantly being monitored. One reason that persons avoid getting a flu vaccination is the notion that the flu shot gives you flu. This is simply not true! It takes approximately 14 days to develop full protection after vaccination, so if persons are exposed to flu viruses shortly after vaccination, they may develop illness. The most common side effects reported after flu vaccination are minor and are far outweighed by the benefits of the vaccine. Millions of flu vaccines have been given safely over the years, and vaccine safety remains a priority.

In addition to the traditional seasonal flu shot available for persons 6 months and older, a nasal spray flu vaccine is available for non-pregnant, healthy people between 2 and 49 years of age, and a high dose flu shot is available for persons 65 and older. An intradermal flu shot, which uses a needle 90 percent smaller than the regular flu shot, is approved for people 18 to 64 years of age.

Local health departments charge a $25 fee for regular seasonal flu vaccine for those with insurance and resources to pay. The flu shot is covered by Medicare Part B for adults 65 years of age and older.  No fee is assessed for persons who are on Medicare and do not belong to an HMO, for those who are on SoonerCare (Medicaid), and for those children who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program. Some people may be eligible for fee waivers based on income. No one is denied a flu shot because of inability to pay. Voluntary donations are accepted.

For more information about the influenza vaccine, contact your health care provider or your local health department.

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