Study shows inequitable access to flu vaccinations could worsen flu epidemic

Giving wealthier counties greater access to influenza vaccine than poorer counties could worsen a flu epidemic because poor areas have fairly high population densities with higher levels of interaction among households and communities, enabling the infection to spread faster, according to a University of Pittsburgh study.

Published in the June issue of , the study used a detailed computer simulation of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and found limiting or delaying the vaccination of residents in poorer counties could raise the total number of influenza infections. Moreover, inequitable access to vaccinations increased the number of new infections during the peak of an epidemic in both poor and wealthier counties – even though the wealthier counties had received more timely and abundant vaccine access.

“When vaccines are in short supply, distributing them quickly and equitably among populations and localities can be a difficult challenge,” said the study’s lead author, Bruce Y. Lee, M.D., M.B.A., assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology and biomedical informatics at the University of Pittsburgh. “However, policymakers across the country, in poor and wealthy areas alike, have an incentive to ensure that poorer residents have equal access to vaccines.”

Dr. Lee is the Applied Modeling Project principal investigator for the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) National Center of Excellence, also at the University of Pittsburgh. He and his co-authors developed the flu vaccination model while working with the Department of Health and Human Services during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. The team studied how the course of the pandemic might have been affected by vaccinating residents of various counties at different rates and times.

Computer simulation modeling suggested that equitable vaccination could reduce an epidemic’s severity because poorer counties tend to have high-density populations and more higher-risk people — such as children – per household, resulting in more interactions. This leads to increased transmission of influenza and greater risk for poorer outcomes, the study said.

Even with the best intentions, inadequate infrastructure, geographical or socioeconomic barriers or cultural differences can lead to inequitable access to vaccines, Dr. Lee said. Research has shown that poorer people may have less access to medical care, including vaccination, than wealthier people.

Provided by University of Pittsburgh

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Predicting effectiveness of flu vaccination campaigns

Feb 09, 2010

A new study, published by Elsevier this month in Vaccine, describes a new method that assesses the impact and cost-effectiveness of a range of vaccination options. The model was applied to the 2009 Influenza H1N1 outbreak and pr ...

NIH experts describe influenza vaccines of the future

Nov 17, 2010

In a review article appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, examine research under way to ...

Recommended for you

US looking past Ebola to prepare for next outbreak

5 hours ago

The next Ebola or the next SARS. Maybe even the next HIV. Even before the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is brought under control, U.S. public health officials are girding for the next health disaster.

Can robots help stop the Ebola outbreak?

14 hours ago

The US military has enlisted a new germ-killing weapon in the fight against Ebola—a four-wheeled robot that can disinfect a room in minutes with pulses of ultraviolet light.

New bird flu case in Germany

14 hours ago

A worrying new strain of bird flu has been observed for the first time in a wild bird in northern Germany, the agriculture ministry said Saturday.

Mali announces new Ebola case

Nov 22, 2014

Mali announced Saturday a new case of Ebola in a man who is fighting for his life in an intensive care unit in the capital Bamako.

Plague outbreak kills 40 in Madagascar: WHO

Nov 22, 2014

An outbreak of plague has killed 40 people in Madagascar, the World Health Organization said, warning that the disease could spread rapidly in the country's densely populated capital Antananarivo.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.