In a survey held by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), it was revealed that just 49% of US adults intended to get their shots before the flu season from 2022 to 2023. The remaining 41% were either undecided or planned to refuse vaccination outright. This is despite 69% of correspondents agreeing that flu vaccinations were the best way to avoid medical complications or deaths related to the flu. Why are people expressing more skepticism regarding the flu vaccine? The survey’s more specific figures shine a light on this shift in perception.
Among respondents who did not want to take the vaccine, the NFID found two main trends. Some were unconcerned– 28% expressed confidence that they would never get the flu, while 20% thought that the flu was not especially serious. The remaining respondents were primarily motivated by skepticism regarding the vaccine. 41% of them expressed doubts about the shot’s efficacy, 39% were worried about potential side effects, while 24% went as far as to claim that the vaccine caused flu. Most worryingly of all, 1 and 5 of these respondents were more susceptible to complications related to the flu, yet they still did not plan to take their shots.
While this sudden shift could be attributed to several factors, the pandemic and COVID vaccination could explain a great deal. Per the NFID, American adults, by and large, are concerned about the safety of having their COVID and flu vaccinations at the same time. Among respondents who tested positive for COVID, 36% of them would opt into receiving both shots at the same time, if offered. 41% outright refused, while the remaining 23% were on the fence. It is also possible that widespread anti-COVID vaccine beliefs are to blame for some of these trends, as well. . In an interview with CNBC, Professor Liam Smeeth from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine expressed concerns that COVID hesitancy could feed into broader anti-vaccine sentiments. “I’m concerned it’s making people think: ‘oh, well, maybe the measles vaccine isn’t great either, and maybe these other vaccines aren’t great,” he elaborated.
Flu vaccines are a modern medical miracle. The effectiveness of flu vaccines can vary, depending on particular strains, but they typically provide around 40 to 60% effectiveness. Even when someone catches the flu, vaccination severely decreases the severity of the illness and the risk of further complications. This is especially important for people with autoimmune issues who would be put at risk if exposed to the flu. With many rare exceptions, it is generally recommended that people take their shots before the flu season. Ultimately, it is up to HCPs on all levels to educate the public on vaccines, their effectiveness, and their safety. Only then can these concerning trends be addressed, head on.