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CDC sees racial gap in flu shots for elderly

Updated:
ATLANTA (AP) _ Elderly blacks are far less likely than elderly whites to get flu shots, and the gap appears to be widening, the goverment said Thursday.

In a 1999 national telephone survey, 69 percent of whites 65 and over reported having a flu shot in the past year, compared with 48 percent of blacks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. For Hispanics, the rate was about 59 percent.

The government wants to see a 90 percent vaccination rate by 2010 for people who are vulnerable to the flu, particularly the elderly. The flu kills about 18,000 elderly people each year in the United States.

The vaccination rate for the elderly rose nearly 2 percentage points among whites from 1997 to 1999 but fell more than 2 points among blacks.

The CDC said it is trying to figure out why the gap exists. James Singleton of the CDC's National Immunization Program said explanations such as less access to medical care do not appear to be the answer.
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