Flu Disparities Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups

Illustration of people of different ethic backgrounds

exclamation square light icon Flu vaccination is especially important for people from racial and ethnic minority groups, who are often less likely to be vaccinated against flu and more likely to be hospitalized with flu. During 2020-2021, getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

New CDC Analysis of Flu Hospitalization Data

People from racial and ethnic minority groups are at higher risk for being hospitalized with flu. This includes non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native, and Hispanic or Latino people.

A CDC analysis of flu hospitalization rates by race and ethnicity (adjusted for age) during 10 flu seasons from 2009-2010 through 2018-2019 showed that

  • Non-Hispanic Black persons had the highest flu-related hospitalization rates (68 per 100,000)
  • Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native persons had the second highest flu-related hospitalization rates (48 per 100,000)
  • Hispanic or Latino persons had the third highest flu-related hospitalization rates (44 per 100,000)
  • Non-Hispanic White persons had lower flu-related hospitalization rates (38 per 100,000) compared to these three groups
  • Non-Hispanic Asian persons had the lowest flu-related hospitalization rates (32 per 100,000)

TABLE 1. Age-adjusted Influenza-related Hospitalizations by Race/Ethnicity (2009-2010 through 2018-2019)*

Race and Ethnicity Bar Chart

*Rates are statistically adjusted to account for differences in age distributions within race/ethnicity strata in the FluSurv-NET catchment area. Rates are preliminary and not yet published. For more information on the methodology used this analysis, visit: Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network (FluSurv-NET)

Other Data

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  • A CDC study published in 2016 showed that during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 flu seasons, non-Hispanic Black persons in every age group and Hispanic or Latino persons five years and older were more likely to be hospitalized with flu than non-Hispanic White persons. This study also showed that people living in high poverty areas were at higher risk for severe outcomes from flu suggesting that socioeconomic status may be a factor contributing to higher flu-related hospitalization rates among these groups.
  • A 2011 studyexternal icon found that Hispanic or Latino persons were more likely than non-Hispanic White persons to be exposed to flu viruses, because of the jobs they often have, which means interacting a lot with the public or because of crowded living conditions, often living with extended family.
  • Because people of color may be at higher risk for getting flu or developing serious illness, resulting in hospitalization, flu vaccination is especially important for these communities. CDC recommends that almost everyone 6 months and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October.

Flu Vaccination Rates Lag Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups

While flu vaccination is the best way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications, flu vaccination rates among people in racial and ethnic minority groups are lower than vaccination rates among non-Hispanic White persons.

CDC’s new report summarizing flu vaccine uptake last season (2019-2020) confirmed disparities in vaccine uptake, particularly among adults.

Among adults (age 18 years and older), while the overall coverage estimate was 48% during the 2019-2020 flu season, flu vaccination coverage was:

  • 38% among Hispanic or Latino persons
  • 41% among non-Hispanic Black persons
  • 42% among American Indian or Alaska Native persons
  • 52% among Asian persons
  • And 53% among non-Hispanic White persons

What CDC is Doing to Address Flu Disparities Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups

  • Working to increase flu vaccination rates
    • Engaging with partners and developing customized outreach to racial and ethnic minority communities to increase flu vaccination rates this year and every year, including developing culturally specific messaging and linguistically tailored content to reach additional audiences.
    • Purchasing additional doses of pediatric flu vaccine and adult flu vaccine to enhance vaccine coverage in under-vaccinated communities, including populations with lower socioeconomic status and racial and ethnic minority groups.
    • Providing additional funding to state immunization programs to plan and implement flu vaccination programs for the 2020-2021 flu season, with a focus on priority groups, including non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic or Latino populations.
  • Conducting research and collecting data on flu disparities
    • Collecting data to better understand how communities of color are disproportionately impacted by flu-related hospitalization.