International travelers who cross the United States-Mexico border >8 times per month have a lower rate of influenza vaccination compared to travelers who cross less frequently, and only half of the pedestrian crossers surveyed believe that the vaccine is safe and effective, according to a study published in Travel Medicine and Infectious Diseases.

The high volume of border crossings at the US-Mexico border can facilitate the spread of influenza viruses. The current study focused on assessing the level of influenza vaccination coverage for adult pedestrians crossing from Mexico into the US during the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009 and during the 2011/2012 influenza season. Data was obtained using in-person surveys of pedestrian travelers selected through systematic random sampling while they were waiting in line for US immigration authorities.

Among the 559 participants surveyed in 2010, 23.4% reported receiving the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine. Of the 1423 participants surveyed in 2012, 33.7% reported receiving the 2011-2012 vaccine. Residents at the US border showed lower H1N1 coverage than residents in other locations.

Participants aged >65 years reported higher rates of vaccination during both surveyed time periods. Of note, participants who had less than a high school education also reported high vaccination rates, but only in 2010. Most participants surveyed believed in the importance of vaccination. The most common reasons participants provided for choosing not to be vaccinated were time constraints, believing disease risk was low, and concerns about efficacy (in 2012) or about vaccine safety (in 2010).

Study investigators noted that over one-third of participants in 2012 “had not seen or heard any information about seasonal influenza prevention” and concluded that “[f]indings from this assessment suggest the need for further implementation and evaluation of targeted public health interventions to address the influenza vaccination and information gaps found in this population.”

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Reference

Rodriguez-Lainz A, DeSisto C, Waterman S, et al. Influenza vaccination coverage among US-Mexico land border crossers: 2009 H1N1 pandemic and 2011-2012 influenza season [published online October 6, 2018]. Travel Med Infect Dis. doi: 10.1016/j.tmaid.2018.10.002