Study: Misconceptions Keep Blacks from Flu Shots

Lori Rackl, Chicago Sun-Times, March 20, 2006

New research that looked at elderly black Chicagoans’ attitudes about the flu vaccine suggests common misconceptions might be fueling African Americans’ notoriously low vaccination rates.

Older people are at greatest risk for serious complications from influenza, which is why public health officials recommend they get the flu shot each year. While 65 percent of whites in this country ages 65 and older get vaccinated, only 48 percent of black seniors do.

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Some had a distrust of the vaccine. Researchers suggested this might be partially due to a lingering effect of the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiments, where black men were denied known treatments for the disease.

Burden on health care workers

“Some of the seniors we interviewed did not know about Tuskegee,” Cameron said. “But those who did thought that the researchers did more than withhold treatment—they thought the men were actually injected with syphilis.”

Cameron said public service messages should be aimed at clearing up these misconceptions and that health care workers need to hammer home the importance of yearly flu shots for elderly blacks.

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