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More Than 40% of US Adults Plan to Skip Influenza Vaccine This Season, Survey Finds

DEC 06, 2018 | EINAV KEET
Despite the severity of the 2017-2018 influenza season, a new survey has found that 41% of adults in the United States do not plan to get an influenza vaccine this year.

During the week ending November 24, 2018, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a slight increase in influenza activity in its weekly FluView report, with the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness increasing to 2.3%, above the national baseline of 2.2%. Two states, Georgia and Louisiana, reported high influenza-like illness activity while 37 states reported minimal activity.

Although influenza activity remains low, 5 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported so far in the 2018-2019 influenza season. In comparison, the 2017-2018 US flu season had an estimated 79,000 deaths, 49 million flu-related illnesses, and 960,000 flu-related hospitalizations, making it the most severe influenza season in the United States in a decade.

Since September 30, 2018, influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses have been reported most commonly by public health laboratories.

Capitalizing on National Influenza Vaccination Week this week, the CDC is urging everyone 6 months and older to receive an influenza vaccine this season as long as they are healthy enough to do so. However, a new survey released by the nonpartisan and objective research organization, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, revealed that, despite the severity of the last influenza season, 41% of Americans do not intend to receive the flu vaccine this season.

According to the survey results, which included responses from 1022 interviews conducted between November 14, 2018 and November 18, 2018, 63% of respondents incorrectly said that last year’s influenza season was about the same as usual, less severe than usual, or that they didn’t know. 

Those not planning on receiving an influenza vaccine said they did not expect to become infected. Furthermore, they did not have confidence in the vaccine’s effectiveness and were concerned about side effects from the vaccine. A total of 43% of adults reported that they had received the influenza vaccine already this season, while 14% said they had not yet gotten the vaccine but intended to still do so. A total of 41% or respondents reported not receiving the vaccine or not intending to receive it.

“Strategies like school and workplace flu clinics have helped make vaccines more affordable and easy to access,” Caitlin Oppenheimer, senior vice president of Public Health Research at NORC, said in a recent statement. “Unfortunately, many people are still not getting flu shots due to broader misconceptions about the value of receiving a flu shot and concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.”

Meanwhile, clinicians are continuing to research influenza transmission patterns.

In new influenza research, investigators on a study recently published in Epidemics examined the last influenza pandemic in the United States in 2009, and found that the early hubs of the epidemic were not in major cities. Instead, the data indicate that three-quarters of all US cases that season originated in 4 smaller cities—Grenada, Mississippi; Albany, Georgia; Stockton, California; and Omaha, Nebraska. Early school start dates may have been a contributing factor, with the investigators noting that several areas in and around Albany, Georgia, had the country's earliest school start dates in the autumn of 2009.

“Contrasting with conventional wisdom, all 4 hubs lie in mid-sized cities, not in the highly-connected urban centers that are often associated with outbreak establishment. While it is likely that air travel played an important role in disseminating the 2009 A/H1N1pdm virus both internationally and within the United States during the early spring wave, these results indicate that other critical ingredients are needed to explain the spatial introduction patterns of the autumn wave of the pandemic in the continental United States,” wrote the authors. These findings, they say, shed light on the need for fine-scale influenza incidence data that can be compared across national boundaries.
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