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Decomposing racial/ethnic disparities in influenza vaccination among the elderly


While persistent racial/ethnic disparities in influenza vaccination have been reported among the elderly, characteristics contributing to disparities are poorly understood. This study aimed to assess characteristics associated with racial/ethnic disparities in influenza vaccination using a nonlinear Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition method. We performed cross-sectional multivariable logistic regression analyses for which the dependent variable was self-reported receipt of influenza vaccine during the 2010-2011 season among community dwelling non-Hispanic African-American (AA), non-Hispanic White (W), English-speaking Hispanic (EH) and Spanish-speaking Hispanic (SH) elderly, enrolled in the 2011 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) (un-weighted/weighted N=6,095/19.2 million). Using the nonlinear Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition method, we assessed the relative contribution of seventeen covariates - including socio-demographic characteristics, health status, insurance, access, preference regarding healthcare, and geographic regions - to disparities in influenza vaccination. Unadjusted racial/ethnic disparities in influenza vaccination were 14.1 percentage points (pp) (W-AA disparity, p<0.001), 25.7 pp (W-SH disparity, p<0.001) and 0.6 pp (W-EH disparity, p>.8). The Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition method estimated that the unadjusted W-AA and W-SH disparities in vaccination could be reduced by only 45% even if AA and SH groups become equivalent to Whites in all covariates in multivariable regression models. The remaining 55% of disparities were attributed to (a) racial/ethnic differences in the estimated coefficients (e.g., odds ratios) in the regression models and (b) characteristics not included in the regression models. Our analysis found that only about 45% of racial/ethnic disparities in influenza vaccination among the elderly could be reduced by equalizing recognized characteristics among racial/ethnic groups. Future studies are needed to identify additional modifiable characteristics causing disparities in influenza vaccination.

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