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Racial Disparities in Adult Vaccine Uptake

September 07, 2021  · 2 min read

Marginalized groups especially older people and those with chronic health conditions not only have a higher risk of contracting infections but are also disproportionately impacted -especially among communities of colour. Patterns of health inequity have shown a long history of Individuals from underserved racial communities as having undiagnosed chronic medical conditions including diabetes, and kidney disease. The devasting impact of COVID-19 pandemic is clear, with social and racial injustice and inequity being the forefront of public health measures. Long standing health disparities continue to encompass the care system and vaccination services and require urgent action to protect the rights of underserved communities.

Researchers, Dr. Kosuke Kawai, Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Alison Tse Kawai, Health Solutions, observe lower adult vaccination (e.g., influenza, pneumococcal, shingles, and Tdap) uptake rates particularly among racial and ethnic minorities. According to their findings, these disparities have persisted for decades and continues to become a pressing issue.


Furthermore, observations show immunization programs that solidify relationships with diverse community members lead to probable results of eliminating communication and trust barriers between authorities and minorities. However, it is imperative to signal the need to reduce cost barriers as a key piece of ensuring immunisation equity among these groups.

Although there is more public health attention to improve access to COVID-19 vaccines for marginalized groups, it is still equally important to consider vaccine preventable diseases. More than 42,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases in the US every year, majority can be seen among minority communities who experience a multitude of delays to access the immunizations they need.

Vaccines4Life’s study entitled Towards Ending Immunization Inequity is an innovative project aimed to understand the effects of social determinants on vaccination campaigns as a policy lever to improve uptake rates within the most at-risk communities. Stay tuned for its release over the coming months to provide evidence on the need to address health disparities through recommendations from immunization bodies (e.g., NITAGs), vaccination gateways, and access to vaccines for specific populations. Follow Vaccines4Life Twitter for more updates on the findings of this study.

To learn more about the barriers to immunization in under studied and special risk populations, please contact Prof. Raina MacIntyre. As the Head of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW and Professor of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, Raina leads innovative research on advancing health equity through immunization programs.

For more information on the social determinants of health in racialized older adult populations, please contact Dr. Isabella Aboderin. Isabella is the Regional Chair for Africa of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG), Technical Advisor to the Global Commission on Aging in Developing Countries, Member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Ageing, and Board Member of HelpAge International and the United Nations International Institute on Ageing (INIA).


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