Health Officials Urge Flu Vaccination, But Few Adults Plan to Get the Shot


The CDC is urging all eligible persons to receive a flu shot, but a new survey shows fewer adults are planning to get the vaccine this season.

The CDC is urging all eligible persons to receive a flu shot, but a new survey shows fewer adults are planning to get the vaccine this season.

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged on, health officials grew increasingly concerned about the approaching flu season. Some warned about the possibility of COVID-19 and influenza coinfection, calling it a “twindemic” of the 2 respiratory viruses.

Luckily, the 2021-2022 flu season proved to be relatively mild. However, this may lead to less than half of eligible adults receiving an influenza vaccination this 2022-2023 season.

According to the National Foundation for Infectious Disease (NFID), about half of all US adults are vulnerable to the flu. Because survey data suggests less than half of adults are planning to get a flu shot this year, the NFID and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are urging everyone 6 months and older to receive an influenza vaccine.

“Based on what we have seen in parts of the Southern Hemisphere, flu has the potential to hit us hard this year,” said NFID Medical Director William Schaffner, MD. “On a positive note, we have more preventive behaviors in our toolbox than we did before the COVID-19 pandemic. We are more accustomed to wearing masks and staying home when sick.”

Over 69% of NFID survey respondents agreed with the statement, “Annual flu vaccination is the best preventive measure against flu-related hospitalization and deaths.” Additionally, 58% indicated they would wear a mask at least sometimes during flu season. This is a stark contrast to pre-COVID-19 pandemic responses, when few to no adults planned to wear a protective face mask during flu season.

The NFID data revealed health officials must do more to inform the public about influenza vaccination. Of the US adults surveyed, only 32% said they are “extremely/very confident” about the safety of receiving simultaneous flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

“These survey data are concerning,” said NFID President Patricia A. Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP. “The updated COVID-19 boosters are safe and convenient to get at the same time as a flu vaccine.”

Vaccine hesitancy became more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic, with so-called “anti-vax” people doubting the science behind the COVID-19 vaccines that led to their rapid rollout. Officials fear this vaccine hesitancy may extend to flu vaccination as well.

“Last flu season, nearly half of adults received their flu vaccine—with adults age 65 years and older leading in flu vaccine coverage," said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH. Older adults are at highest risk for severe influenza and are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated.

However, the NFID survey results suggest that among adults 65 and older with a comorbid condition placing them at higher risk of pneumococcal disease, only 29% were advised to get a pneumococcal disease vaccine. “Flu season is also a great time to make sure you are up to date on pneumococcal vaccination because pneumococcal disease can be a serious complication of flu,” said Stinchfield.

The CDC estimates that 94% of US adults hospitalized with flu-related complications had at least 1 underlying comorbidity. However, the NFID survey found 22% of persons at high risk of developing flu-related complications are not planning to get vaccinated during the 2022-2023 flu season.

"With a potentially challenging flu season ahead, I urge everyone to protect themselves and their families from flu and its potentially serious complications,” Walensky said. “Schedule your flu vaccine today.”

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