Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan joins national efforts to increase flu vaccinations among underserved populations

December 7, 2011

DETROIT — In support of this week’s National Influenza Vaccination Week, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is promoting the importance of the seasonal flu vaccination, especially among underserved populations such as the uninsured, minorities and older Americans.

"While vaccination coverage continues to increase, there are still a number of misconceptions about flu shots. It is important to continue educating the public, particularly underserved populations because their participation rate is lower,” said Jerry Johnson, M.D., BCBSM executive medical officer. “The Blues are committed to addressing health disparities and we are targeting these communities with information about flu vaccinations, as well as a call to action to get the shot.”

More than 160,000 Blues Medicare members have received flu shot information. In addition to member outreach, the Blues are targeting specific underserved communities and distributing flyers and flu information through churches, schools, nonprofit organizations and community partners.

A recent CDC survey reported a record number of seasonal flu vaccine doses, approximately 163 million, distributed in the U.S. in 2010, but the survey also indicated disparities in overall immunization coverage rates, particularly among minority adult populations (18 years and older), the uninsured and underinsured, and the elderly.

Influenza ranges from a mild to a deadly illness. On average, more than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized each year for respiratory and heart conditions associated with influenza virus infections. Getting vaccinated annually is the best way to help protect against influenza. Even if the vaccine is not a perfect match, it will often offer some protection against a different, but related, strain that may begin to circulate in the community. This could mean milder illness or prevention of complications.

Flu season usually peaks in late winter or early spring so there is still time to get the shot. In fact, as long as influenza viruses are in circulation, it's a good idea to get vaccinated. Visit the CDC Web site to learn more: www.cdc.gov/flu.

There are also hundreds of places around the state offering flu shots to everyone, insured or uninsured. To find a flu shot location, click here.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to nearly 4.3 million members residing in Michigan in addition to members of Michigan-headquartered groups who reside outside the state. BCBSM also offers dental, vision and hearing plans. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit bcbsm.com.

©1996-2014 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We provide health insurance in Michigan.

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