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Influenza vaccination among veterans with spinal cord injury: Part 2. Increasing vaccination rates.

Weaver FM, Goldstein B, Evans CT, Legro MW, LaVela S, Smith B, Miskevics S, Hammond MC. Influenza vaccination among veterans with spinal cord injury: Part 2. Increasing vaccination rates. The journal of spinal cord medicine. 2003 Jul 1; 26(3):210-8.

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BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE: Respiratory complications are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI). Influenza vaccination is effective in reducing the likelihood of contracting influenza and of subsequent respiratory complications, hospitalizations, and deaths. Historically, vaccination rates for veterans with SCI treated in Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities have been low. The objective of this study was to increase vaccination rates in this population using a multipronged strategy. METHODS: A quasi-experimental design involving 2,284 veterans treated at 8 VA SCI Centers was used. Patients at 4 centers received reminder letters and educational materials tailored to SCI. Provider education included mailed reminders and posters in SCI clinical areas. Clinical champions were identified at each site. Four other centers, matched to the study sites in program size and prior vaccination rates, served as comparison sites providing usual care. Vaccination rates were assessed using mailed surveys with telephone follow-up. RESULTS: The influenza vaccination rate was significantly higher in the intervention group than in the comparison group (60.5% vs 54.3%; P = 0.01 ). Vaccine recipients were older than nonrecipients (mean age 60.8 vs 53.1 years; P < 0.0001). Reasons for not receiving a vaccination included refusal, feeling that being vaccinated was not worth the trouble, and not believing that the vaccine would prevent influenza. CONCLUSIONS: Use of low-cost mailed reminders and educational materials resulted in significantly higher vaccination rates. Further efforts to reach targeted subgroups of nonrecipients, such as patients who are younger or from an ethnic minority, are warranted.

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