Flu vaccine behaviors could inform future COVID-19 vaccine distribution
The ongoing wave of new COVID-19 infections and recent recall recommendations have made the need for efficient distribution of COVID-19 vaccines even more urgent, especially for high-risk people with chronic illnesses.
Getting more vaccines in the hands of primary care physicians may help, according to a new study from the University of Georgia. Researchers analyzed data on influenza vaccination in people at high risk, which could help determine where these people might want to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
How can a flu study help us with COVID-19 vaccinations?
The team, led by UGA College of Public Health Associate Professor Janani Thapa, wanted to know where people at high risk for severe COVID-19 – people with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer – were more likely to access a vaccine. .
“Understanding the location of vaccines used by patients at high risk for influenza vaccination can inform COVID-19 vaccine distribution and promotion strategies,” Thapa said.
Annual flu shots are one of the few regular shots that adults need to get, and studies have shown that many people tend to get their flu shot in the same place every year.
“If someone goes to their local pharmacy every year to get their flu shot because it’s their habit, we interpret that to mean that that local pharmacy was probably a convenient or comfortable place to get the flu shot,” said Victoria Fonzi, co-author of the study. who worked on this study as a graduate student in public health.
So they turned to survey data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2018, which asked more than 430,000 adults in the United States about a range of health and risk behaviors.
The 2018 survey included data showing whether respondents had received a flu shot and where they had received it. Of those polled, just over 164,000 said they received a flu shot that year. The researchers grouped these respondents into high-risk and low-risk groups for COVID-19, using age, body mass index, smoking behavior and chronic health conditions. These results underscore the role of primary care clinics in the vaccine deployment effort. Not only are these places comfortable and convenient for high-risk groups, speaking with a doctor has been shown to be one of the best ways to overcome vaccine hesitancy.
Next, they analyzed the likelihood of a high-risk person getting the flu shot at various vaccination locations, also taking into account variables such as race and ethnicity or marital status, which could affect vaccine location preferences. They included five vaccine locations: doctor’s offices, stores, state-affiliated locations, community centers, and hospitals.
People at high risk seek easy access to vaccines
They found that among the high-risk group, 46% looked for flu shots at their doctor’s office, followed by stores at 31%, leaving only 23% who received their vaccine at a location in the state. , community center or hospital.
These results underscore the role of primary care clinics in the vaccine deployment effort. Not only are these places comfortable and convenient for high-risk groups, speaking with a doctor has been shown to be one of the best ways to overcome vaccine hesitancy.
There is also good news for regions where access to primary care is a problem.
“Stores and pharmacies have several advantages because more people have access to them. About nine in 10 Americans live within 5 miles of a community pharmacy, which makes them more geographically accessible than others, ”said co-author Kiran Thapa, a doctoral student at the College of Public Health.
This study may also be useful in pre-planning the distribution of the COVID-19 booster vaccine, according to the authors.
The study, “Using 2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Influencing Vaccination Location Data to Expand COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage,” was published in the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health.
Faculty co-authors are Heather Padilla, Mahmud Khan, Curt Harris and Glen Nowak from the University of Georgia, and Kishor Luitel from Middle Tennessee State University.