Following a mild flu season in 2021-2022, NFID survey shows only 49% of US adults plan to get a flu vaccine this season
Bethesda, MD (October 4, 2022)—With a potentially severe respiratory season ahead, about half of all US adults remain vulnerable to influenza (flu), according to new data released today by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). The new NFID survey of US adults found that only 49% plan to get a flu vaccine during the 2022-2023 flu season. Leading health experts from NFID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are urging everyone age 6 months and older to get vaccinated against flu now, amid concerns of a potentially severe season in the US.
CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, is encouraging the public to prioritize vaccination. “Last flu season, nearly half of adults received their flu vaccine—with adults age 65 years and older leading in flu vaccine coverage,” said Dr. Walensky, citing new CDC data also released at today’s news conference. “With a potentially challenging flu season ahead, I urge everyone to protect themselves and their families from flu and its potentially serious complications. Schedule your flu vaccine today.”
In addition to flu, the NFID survey also explored attitudes and behaviors about COVID-19 and pneumococcal disease. Only 32% of US adults are extremely/very confident about the safety of receiving flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time—underlining the importance of healthcare professionals talking to their patients about the safety of vaccine coadministration. Also, among adults age 65 years and older, and those with an underlying health condition who are at higher risk for pneumococcal disease, less than a third (29%) report that they have been advised to get vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.
“These survey data are concerning. The updated COVID-19 boosters are safe and convenient to get at the same time as a flu vaccine,” said NFID President Patricia (Patsy) A. Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP. “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.”
According to the NFID survey, a majority (69%) of US adults recognize that annual flu vaccination is the best preventive measure against flu-related hospitalization and deaths. Furthermore, most US adults (58%) report that they will wear a mask at least sometimes during flu season, a preventive behavior that represents a major change compared to pre-pandemic flu seasons.
“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.”
Walensky, Schaffner, and Stinchfield were joined at today’s news conference by Tamika C. Auguste, MD, ACOG fellow and chair of Women’s and Infants’ Services at MedStar Washington Hospital Center; Jeb S. Teichman, MD, retired pediatrician and healthcare executive; and Alicia M. Fry, MD, MPH, chief of the CDC Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in the Influenza Division. Panelists onsite led by example and got vaccinated against flu.
During the 2021-2022 flu season, CDC estimates 51% of the overall US population age 6 months and older received a flu vaccine, which was similar to coverage during the 2020-2021 season. Flu vaccination among all adults was 49%, with coverage increasing with age: 37% for adults age 18 to 49 years, 52% for adults age 50 to 64 years, and 74% for adults age 65 years and older. This trend in coverage by age is consistent with prior seasons.
The NFID survey also shows that the majority (78%) of adults age 65 years and older know that this year, certain flu vaccines (high dose, recombinant, and adjuvanted flu vaccines) are preferentially recommended for them, as they help boost the immune response in older adults.
Among children age 6 months to 17 years, flu vaccination coverage was 58% for the 2021-2022 flu season, which is a decrease of about 6 percentage points compared to 2019-2020. For pregnant women, vaccination coverage dropped to 50% compared to nearly 55% in the previous season.
CDC estimates that approximately 94% of US adults who were hospitalized with flu-related complications last season had at least one underlying medical condition. Yet only 43% of adults age 18 to 49 years with at least one chronic health condition were vaccinated against flu during the 2021-2022 season. Of concern this year, the NFID survey found that nearly 1 in 5 individuals (22%) who are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications reported that they were not planning to get vaccinated against flu during the 2022-2023 season.
“Flu vaccination is important for everyone,” Dr. Auguste said, “but it is especially important for those at higher risk from potentially serious complications of flu, including pregnant women, children under 5 years of age, adults age 65 years and older, and those with certain chronic health conditions, including diabetes, lung disease, and heart disease. Unfortunately, many of these populations have sub-optimal vaccination rates. I’m particularly concerned to see that vaccination rates for pregnant women dipped to 50% last season,” added Dr. Auguste.
According to the NFID survey, 76% of US adults trust healthcare professionals a great deal or a lot for flu vaccine information, far more than other sources. Dr. Teichman dedicated his life to vaccine advocacy after his healthy 29-year-old unvaccinated son died due to flu-related complications in 2019. “Brent had flu vaccination on his to-do list, but this cruel, unpredictable virus got to him first,” said Dr. Teichman. “I am sharing my story because everyone needs to take flu seriously, including young, healthy people. As a parent and a healthcare professional, I’m committed to recommending annual flu vaccination for everyone age 6 months and older.” (Read Brent’s story)
For more information about the 2022 NFID survey, the 2022 Annual Influenza and Pneumococcal Disease News Conference, and to access resources for use throughout the US respiratory season, visit www.nfid.org/2022flunews.
About the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Founded in 1973, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the burden, causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases across the lifespan. For additional information, visit www.nfid.org.
NFID promotes the CDC Take 3 approach to flu prevention: 1) Get an annual flu vaccination (everyone age 6 months and older); 2) Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs; and 3) Take flu antiviral drugs if prescribed. Flu season is also a good time to make sure you are up to date on pneumococcal vaccines. Be sure to #GetVaccinated to help #FightFlu and #PreventPneumo.
Attitudes about Flu, COVID-19, and Pneumococcal Disease Prevention National Survey
The NFID survey was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Data were collected using the AmeriSpeak Omnibus®, a monthly multi-client survey using the NORC probability-based panel designed to be representative of the US household population. Interviews for the survey were conducted between August 11 and 15, 2022, with adults age 18 years and older representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Panel members were randomly drawn from AmeriSpeak, and 1,005 completed the survey—946 via the web and 59 via telephone. Interviews were conducted in English.
This news conference is sponsored by NFID in collaboration with CDC, with support from professional societies and patient advocacy partners, in-kind support from VaxCare, and unrestricted educational grants from AstraZeneca, GSK, Merck & Co., Inc., Sanofi Pasteur, and Seqirus. NFID policies prohibit funders from controlling program content.
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