By Megan Brooks
WebMD Health News
Dec. 10, 2018 -- More than 40% of Americans have not been vaccinated against the flu this year and don't plan to get vaccinated, despite repeated warnings about the potential dangers and last year's record number of flu-related deaths, a new survey shows.
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The survey includes interviews with 1,202 adults. It was conducted between Nov. 14 and 19 by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.
Results showed that 43% of adults have received the flu shot and that 14% had not yet been vaccinated but planned to be. Yet 41% of adults surveyed said they did not plan to get vaccinated. About 2% were undecided or did not respond.
The highest vaccination rate (62%) was for adults over the age of 60, a group at higher risk for flu-related complications. But about 1 in 4 (24%) people over 60 did not plan to get vaccinated this year.
Adults younger than 45 were the least likely to report being vaccinated. Roughly half of this group indicated that they did not plan to receive a vaccination this year.
Among adults who have children younger than 18 living in their home, 39% said they do not vaccinate their children.
The top reasons people gave for not getting a flu shot were concern about side effects (36%), concern about getting the flu from the vaccine (31%), and because they never get the flu or they do not think the flu vaccine works (31%).
"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," Caitlin Oppenheimer, MPH, senior vice president of public health research at NORC, says in a news release.
The CDC recommends routine annual influenza vaccination for most people over 6 months old. The CDC estimates that flu vaccination coverage among adults was 37% for the 2017-2018 season and 43% for the 2016-2017 season.
Last year's flu season was particularly severe, with a record-breaking 900,000 hospitalizations and more than 80,000 deaths in the United States. Although most flu deaths were in adults older than 65, the flu also killed 180 children and teenagers.
Many survey respondents did not know this. About two-thirds (63%) incorrectly believed that last year's season was about the same as usual, was less severe than usual, or they did not know. People who had already received their flu shot for this season were more aware of the severity of last year's flu season; 43% of people who had already been vaccinated correctly identified last year's season as being more severe than usual, compared to only 30% of people who do not plan to get vaccinated.
"Flu vaccination helps prevent people from getting sick with the flu and reduces the severity of illness for those who do get sick. Widespread vaccination also helps create 'herd immunity' that protects vulnerable groups who are prevented from getting vaccinated," Caroline Pearson, a senior fellow at NORC, says in news release. "Unfortunately, over half of all adults are currently unvaccinated, with 4 in 10 not intending to get vaccinated, placing themselves and those around them at risk."