Rhode Island Is Number One In Adult Flu Shots

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Department of Health (HEALTH) announced that Rhode Island had the nation's highest rate in 2007 for influenza vaccination among adults 65 years and older. According to the CDC's 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) data, Rhode Island's 2007 rate is 80%; up 5% from 75% in 2006. According to the BRFSS data, the national average for influenza immunization is 72%.

"Rhode Island's high rate of adult flu vaccination can be attributed, at least in part, to our innovative adult influenza immunization program, which began in October 2007," said Director of Health David R Gifford, MD, MPH. "This program is a unique partnership between the health insurers, health care providers, and HEALTH, and we are pleased with the success the program has shown in its first year".

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"The Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians worked hard over the past few years to develop a centralized process for ordering and distributing influenza vaccine with the hopes that such a system would achieve just what it did - improved influenza vaccine rates," said Sarah Fessler, MD, President of the Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians. "It is great to know that we were able to achieve this with additional hard work and support from our friends at the Department of Health and that we were able to do so even within the first year of the program."

Through the Immunize for Life Program, the state's health insurers fund the purchase of influenza vaccine purchased by HEALTH. The insurers realize savings through lower costs of the vaccine from the State's purchasing power and by greater availability of vaccine, which can reduce influenza-related illnesses and health care costs (e.g., hospitalizations). The vaccine is in turn delivered to the health care providers by an in-state contractor, saving additional money in distribution costs. The providers who receive vaccine from the State do not bill the insurers for the cost of the vaccine, but can bill to cover their administration costs. This new system allows providers to have vaccine more readily available for patients because they can order as needed throughout the flu season, as opposed to purchasing a set quantity before flu season begins. With the old system, providers tended to under-order for patients because they were responsible for the cost of any unused vaccine.

Nearly 50% of the state's adult health care providers enrolled in the program in its first year. Of those, 6% reported they had never provided influenza vaccinations to their patients. More health care providers are enrolling for next season because their colleagues are reporting the cost-effective and timely manner in which they can now get access to influenza vaccine.

In Rhode Island, approximately 50,000-200,000 people get the flu every year and about 120 people die from the flu or complications from the flu. Flu shots are especially important for older adults, because they tend to have worse outcomes if they catch the disease.

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