A new survey, commissioned by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, showing that nearly half of U.S. adults are not likely to get a flu shot this season has prompted federal health officials to urge all Americans to get the flu vaccines. This year’s overall U.S. flu vaccination rate of about 52% is similar to last year’s, but there’s a “disparity gap” between whites (56%) and Blacks (43%), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Even more troubling is that the poll of 1,110 respondents aged 18 and older also found that nearly 1 in 4 of those at high risk for flu-related complications said they don’t intend to get a flu shot, The New York Times reports.
Overall, 61% of respondents agreed that vaccination provides the best protection against the flu, but 44% said they either didn’t intend to get a shot or were unsure whether they would get one.
Walensky also raised alarms about a decline in the flu vaccination rates among young children, to 59 percent from 64 percent the year before. In the 2019-2020 season, 199 children died from the flu, about 80 percent of whom were not vaccinated.
Who is at high risk?
According to the CDC the following people are at a higher risk of flu complications:
- Adults 65 years and older
- Children younger than 2 years old
- People with asthma
- People with eurologic and neurodevelopment conditions
- People with blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
- People with chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
- Peopple with endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
- People with heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
- People with kidney diseases
- People with liver disorders
- People with metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
- People who are obese with a body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher
- People younger than 19 years old on long-term aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications.
- People with a weakened immune system due to disease (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or some cancers such as leukemia) or medications (such as those receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer, or persons with chronic conditions requiring chronic corticosteroids or other drugs that suppress the immune system)
- People who have had a stroke
- Pregnant people and people up to 2 weeks after the end of pregnancy
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People from certain racial and ethnic minority groups are at increased risk for hospitalization with flu, including non-Hispanic Black persons, Hispanic or Latino persons, and American Indian or Alaska Native persons
- Although all children younger than 5 years old are considered at higher risk of serious flu complications, the highest risk is for those younger than 2 years old, with the highest hospitalization and death rates among infants younger than 6 months old.
COVID and the flu
The severity of the upcoming flu season is unclear, but other respiratory infections have already returned, Walensky says during a Thursday news briefing to release the survey data.
She notes that because last year’s flu season was so mild, people don’t have the natural immunity to the flu they