Failure to immunize the elderly: a systems problem or a statement of personal values?

J. B. Fowles, T. J. Beebe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Despite the proven efficacy of the influenza vaccine in reducing the risk for pneumonia, hospitalization, and death and the potential savings in costs, most elderly persons do not receive annual immunizations. The study tested the influence of health care delivery system characteristics and individual personal values on the influenza immunization status. METHODS: The study involved a secondary data analysis based on the results of a mailed survey of 3,362 seniors 65 years of age and older enrolled in HealthPartners, a mixed-model health maintenance organization in Minnesota. The three care delivery systems in which respondents were enrolled varied in the intensity and consistency with which they addressed immunization. RESULTS: The immunization rate for this population (77.1%) was higher than the state rate (64%). After controlling for many variables historically known to influence the likelihood of immunization, both care delivery system characteristics and personal values remained significantly associated with immunization status. Elderly individuals getting care in delivery systems with well-developed immunization programs were more likely to be immunized. Those who avoided going to the physician and who practiced risky behaviors such as smoking were less likely to be immunized, regardless of the care delivery system they were enrolled in. DISCUSSION: Managed care can provide a number of system improvements to assist in meeting national health care objectives such as influenza immunization for the elderly. It has reduced some common barriers to immunization, such as cost and access. Yet to achieve the full benefits of a successful influenza immunization program, the role of individual values, as well as implementing systems solutions, needs to be addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)704-710
Number of pages7
JournalThe Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1998


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