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Most US adults have not gotten a flu shot for this mild season

Most US adults have not gotten a flu shot this season, according to a...

Posted: Dec 7, 2018 3:02 PM

Most US adults have not gotten a flu shot this season, according to a new survey from NORC, a research organization at the University of Chicago.

As of mid-November, only 43% of surveyed people 18 or older said they had gotten vaccinated against the flu, according to NORC, which has conducted the National Immunization Survey for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2005. Another 14% who remain unvaccinated claim that they will get the shot, the survey indicates.

Even if they do as they intend, that leaves considerably more than a third of adults (41%) who have not -- and will not -- get a flu shot, according to NORC. (The remaining 2% either did not answer or responded, "I don't know.")

The report comes early in what has been a mild season. Thirty-eight states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico experienced minimal flu activity for the week ending December 1, while New York City and 10 states experienced low or moderate activity, according to Friday's weekly flu report from the CDC. Only two states, Georgia and Louisiana, experienced high activity during the week.

The mild season is a dramatic shift from the previous flu season, which was the deadliest in decades, with more than 80,000 flu-related deaths in the United States.

'It's still very, very early'

"We cannot claim that the 43% of vaccinated people is the reason for the mild flu season so far," said Richard Webby, a flu scientist and adviser to the World Health Organization on recommendations for the composition of flu vaccines. Webby, who was not involved in the NORC survey, said vaccination rates are similar to those of years in which flu activity has been widespread and illness severe for many people.

"We've got to keep in mind that it's still very, very early, and even at this time last year, there hadn't been a huge amount of activity either," said Webby, a member of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's Department of Infectious Diseases.

No children died as a result of the flu during the week ended December 1, though five children died earlier this season, the CDC reported. Among adults, flu deaths are estimated based on pneumonia and other illnesses related to flu. The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and flu was below the usual threshold for this time of year, the CDC said.

Among those who visited a doctor's office, just 2.2% said the reason for their visit was flu-like illness; this is considered a normal rate for this time of year, according to the CDC.

The report also showed a total of 383 hospitalizations reported since October 1, with slightly more than 1 flu-related hospitalization for every 100,000 people during the week ended December 1. The highest rates of hospitalization were among adults 65 or older and children younger than 4; both age groups saw slightly more than 3 flu-related hospitalizations per 100,000 people.

Webby said a "slightly reassuring signal" this year is that the H1N1 strain is the dominant strain of flu circulating.

"That's the strain that's a little bit better match to our vaccine," he said. "It tends not to have quite the same impact that the H3N2 season does, and that's what we had last year." Influenza B strain viruses, which have the same symptoms as A-strain viruses, are also circulating this season as usual, the CDC said.

There were 1,105 new laboratory-confirmed cases during the week ending December 1, bringing the season total to 6,170, the CDC calculated. These numbers do not include all people infected with the flu, because many people do not seek medical help when they are sick and so go uncounted.

Why you should consider getting a flu shot

The most important response to seasonal flu, according to the CDC, is for everyone 6 months or older to get vaccinated. As long as flu is circulating in the area where you live, it is not too late to get vaccinated.

Looking at the new NORC report, Webby worries about "the quarter of people [age] 60-plus that are not getting vaccinated." Adults over 65, children under 2 and individuals with medical conditions not only should get a flu shot, they should get a pneumococcal vaccination to prevent pneumonia, according to the CDC. Flu is more likely to be severe or even deadly in these groups than among healthy adults.

About half the people in the 18- to-44 age group also haven't gotten a flu shot, noted Webby, who believes that "it's probably an uphill battle" trying to increase these vaccination rates. After all, flu infections don't usually cause severe illness in this age group.

"We're struggling a little bit by the perception that flu is not really a deadly disease, which of course we know it is," he said. "Perhaps the healthy adults are at a fairly small risk of getting a very very severe flu infection, but if they do get infected, they're potentially still infecting others. And how many people in that age group have young kids or have elderly parents?"

Young children and the elderly are at higher risk of getting severe illness, Webby said: "So by getting vaccinated, you're not just protecting yourself, but also, through herd immunity, you're protecting others."

The overall effectiveness of last year's flu shot was estimated to be 40%, meaning vaccination reduced an individual's risk of seeking medical care by 40%, according to the CDC. Among children, effectiveness rates were higher: Children who got the shot were 59% seek medical care for the virus, the CDC reported this year.

Though the vaccine is imperfect, it lessens the severity and duration of symptoms, and those who get flu after receiving a vaccine are less likely to require hospitalization and less likely to die.

Webby added that the vaccine is also safe. Though some people report a sore arm after getting the shot, the overwhelming majority experience no extreme side effects.

"The vaccine has been given to many people every year with a very good safety record," he said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 918230

Reported Deaths: 15011
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1252491952
Lake623371084
Allen52301746
Hamilton43009443
St. Joseph41155584
Elkhart32831485
Vanderburgh29698436
Tippecanoe26442247
Johnson23106414
Hendricks21708338
Porter21255340
Clark16988222
Madison16899378
Vigo15562272
Monroe14186190
LaPorte13961235
Delaware13613215
Howard13531258
Kosciusko11150134
Hancock10534159
Warrick10431174
Bartholomew10233166
Floyd10099202
Wayne9557216
Grant8858194
Morgan8654158
Boone8231109
Dubois7521123
Henry7391126
Dearborn734186
Noble7208100
Marshall7168127
Cass7060117
Lawrence6803150
Jackson638980
Shelby6386106
Gibson5999105
Harrison587984
Huntington586490
Montgomery5663101
DeKalb555691
Knox532999
Miami523183
Clinton522464
Putnam519067
Whitley509851
Steuben480267
Wabash470192
Jasper465760
Jefferson456091
Ripley439074
Adams435565
Daviess4008106
Scott389563
White383457
Decatur376895
Clay376455
Greene375589
Wells375183
Fayette363074
Posey351841
Jennings341756
Washington324046
LaGrange312074
Spencer310734
Fountain306553
Randolph302087
Sullivan294947
Owen275961
Orange269659
Starke268961
Fulton264451
Jay248134
Perry244950
Carroll239926
Franklin229337
Vermillion225850
Rush225530
Parke212020
Tipton205354
Pike200938
Blackford163834
Pulaski155250
Crawford140818
Benton138316
Newton138141
Brown130646
Martin124416
Switzerland122310
Warren112616
Union92211
Ohio75811
Unassigned0461

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1319265

Reported Deaths: 21265
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1480641537
Cuyahoga1311202313
Hamilton948871307
Montgomery647451122
Summit548531041
Lucas49502853
Butler45993649
Stark39954963
Lorain30438525
Warren29170326
Mahoning25988629
Clermont24726278
Lake24088411
Delaware21722140
Licking19822239
Fairfield19780218
Greene19671266
Medina19208285
Trumbull19195506
Clark17188321
Portage15585224
Richland15540228
Wood15187208
Allen13654254
Miami13283244
Muskingum11821148
Wayne11448234
Columbiana11100239
Tuscarawas10388264
Marion10273144
Pickaway10162128
Scioto9766124
Erie9479170
Ross8979172
Lawrence8225116
Hancock8105140
Ashtabula8083184
Geauga7976155
Belmont7791183
Jefferson7093168
Huron7087125
Union703549
Washington6823116
Athens666163
Sandusky6608132
Darke6394135
Knox6308120
Seneca6113135
Auglaize569888
Ashland5631110
Shelby555799
Mercer545188
Brown533067
Defiance5278100
Madison527368
Crawford5148113
Highland514876
Fulton508781
Clinton505379
Logan494582
Preble4788110
Putnam4733106
Guernsey439057
Williams437281
Champaign426463
Ottawa425783
Perry414051
Jackson402259
Pike367140
Morrow359149
Fayette353951
Coshocton345064
Hardin341868
Adams338864
Gallia329254
Holmes3148107
Henry312668
Van Wert299269
Hocking280467
Wyandot271858
Carroll250451
Paulding231742
Meigs197842
Monroe178649
Noble160340
Morgan153528
Harrison145740
Vinton130217
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
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Angola
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Huntington
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Decatur
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Van Wert
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Friday is the beginning for a more summer-like forecast, with more heat and humidity returning to the region.
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