Closing the Gaps on Flu Vaccination for Adults with Chronic Health Conditions

During National Influenza Vaccination Week (December 5-11, 2021), the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is urging everyone age 6 months and older to get an annual influenza (flu) vaccine, especially adults whose chronic health conditions put them at higher risk. 

Anyone can get sick with flu, but adults with certain chronic health conditions, including heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, are at increased risk of flu-related complications, including hospitalization and death, even when the condition is well-controlled. To better understand knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors around flu vaccination, NFID commissioned two national surveys (conducted online from October 28-November 8, 2021) of healthcare professionals (HCPs) and adult patients with chronic health conditions.

The data confirm that there is room for improvement in strong and consistent HCP recommendations for annual flu vaccination from both primary care physicians and specialists. Additionally, a significant gap between what physicians think they are saying and resulting actions among vulnerable patients remains.

Although nearly all HCPs say they recommend flu vaccines to their patients with chronic health conditions at least some of the time, only 45 percent of US adults with a chronic health condition say they were vaccinated against flu by early November 2021.

Most patients with chronic health conditions (86 percent) say an HCP recommended they get a flu vaccine in the past year, and more than half (56 percent) of patients received the recommendation from a primary care physician.

The patient survey identified differences among specialties:

  • 72 percent of patients with a cardiovascular condition said a cardiologist recommended they get a flu vaccine
  • 32 percent of patients with a lung condition said a pulmonologist recommended they get a flu vaccine
  • 10 percent of patients with diabetes say an endocrinologist recommended they get a flu vaccine

The surveys found that patients are more likely to get vaccinated if an HCP recommends it:

  • More than half of patients (51 percent) with chronic health conditions who have received or plan to get an annual flu vaccine are motivated by an HCP recommendation
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of patients who are unsure or do not plan to get vaccinated say they would be more likely to get a flu vaccine if an HCP recommended it
  • Approximately, one-quarter of patients not planning to get a flu vaccine or unsure about doing so say they would be more likely to get one if they received a referral from an HCP to a local pharmacy (26 percent) or a prescription for a flu vaccine from an HCP (23 percent)
  • More than half of patients (51 percent) not planning to get a flu vaccine or unsure about doing so say they would be more likely to get a flu vaccine if an HCP provided it during a regularly scheduled appointment

Survey findings reinforce the importance of HCP and patient conversations about flu vaccination for all patients with chronic health conditions.

Tools and Resources to Help Bridge the Gap

Join NFID on December 9, 2021 at 12:00 PM ET for a complimentary webinar on Closing the Gap: Protecting Adults with Chronic Health Conditions. There is no fee to participate, but pre-registration is required.

In collaboration with supporting organizations, NFID has developed tools and resources for HCPs and patients with chronic health conditions. Learn more at www.nfid.org/LowerYourFluRisk.

To join the conversation and get the latest news on infectious diseases, follow NFID on Twitter using the hashtags #FightFlu and #LowerYourFluRisk, like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagramvisit us on LinkedIn, and subscribe to receive future NFID Updates.