By Robert Preidt
"Asthmatics are at increased risk for complications from the flu," said one expert, Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Exacerbations [flare-ups] of asthma are common with any viral infection, but the exacerbation from the flu is particularly severe."
The new study, led by Matthew Lozier of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at flu shot uptake during the 2010-2011 flu season. The investigators found that only half of Americans with asthma got a flu shot -- a figure that was at least an improvement on the rate of 36 percent observed in the 2005-2006 flu season.
However, despite this increase, flu vaccination rates for people with asthma remain well below the federal government's Healthy People 2020 targets for flu vaccination: coverage of 80 percent for children ages 6 months to 17 years, and 90 percent for adults with asthma.
The study authors noted that asthma severity didn't seem to impact on whether or not a person got vaccinated -- those who had experienced an asthma attack in the past year were no more likely to get the flu shot than those who did not.
Insurance coverage seemed to be a big factor. According to the study, "more than twice as many persons with health insurance coverage were vaccinated compared with those without health insurance coverage." People from poorer families were also much less likely to get the flu shot versus those in more affluent households.
Programs that have helped boost flu shot rates in the past include patient and health care provider reminders, and reducing patients' out-of-pocket costs, the researchers noted in a CDC news release.
The study is published in the Dec. 6 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.