Nineteen percent of people aged 60 or more years do not plan to get vaccinated against influenza this year, according to a new AmeriSpeak Spotlight on Health survey from NORC at the University of Chicago.
The survey was conducted Nov. 7 and 11 among adults aged 18 or more years. Among all respondents, when asked why they do not intend to be vaccinated, adults were most likely to cite concerns about side effects of the vaccine (37%) or a perception (36%) that the vaccine does not work very well.
“Widespread misconceptions exist regarding the safety and efficacy of flu shots. Because of the way the flu spreads in a community, failing to get a vaccination not only puts you at risk but also others for whom the consequences of the flu can be severe,” said Caitlin Oppenheimer, senior vice president of public health research at NORC at the University of Chicago.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone aged six months and older as the first and most important step in protecting against the potentially serious disease. Vaccination is especially important among long-term care workers and the elderly, among other groups, health officials say.
“Influenza can result in serious illness, hospitalization and death, particularly among older adults, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes,” Nancy Messonnier, M.D., director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a Dec. 4 hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
The 2019-2020 flu season officially has begun, she told lawmakers.
“National levels of influenza-like illness have been increasing for nearly a month; however, the amount of illness still varies by region,” she said. “The South and parts of the West are seeing elevated activity, while other parts of the country are still seeing low activity.”