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Got the Flu Shot? Half Say 'No'

53% of U.S. Adults Still Haven't Gotten Flu Vaccine
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 10, 2008 -- More than half of U.S. adults have no intention of getting a flu shot this year, leaving them vulnerable to getting -- and spreading -- the dangerous disease.

The finding comes from the first-ever midseason analysis of who got the shot and who did not.

It's not a good report card for public health, says William Schaffner, MD, president-elect of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and chairman of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Nashville's Vanderbilt University.

"Seventy percent of us adults should be vaccinated according to CDC's specific recommendations -- never mind that the CDC says everybody else should, too," Schaffner said at a news conference. "This looks like we are not doing very well, and must do better."

About one in 20 Americans gets the flu each year -- and that's in a very good flu season. In a bad year, you have a 1-in-5 chance of spending three to five days unable to get out of bed, missing a week of work or school, and taking about two weeks to recover.

And that's just if you have an average, uncomplicated case of the flu. If you have an underlying illness, or if you're over age 50 or an infant, your risk is much higher. Every year, the CDC says, flu kills 36,000 Americans.

You can avoid all this if you get the flu vaccine, either the flu shot or the flu sniff (the FluMist intranasal vaccine). Even in a year when the made-in-advance vaccine doesn't fully match circulating flu viruses, the vaccine makes the flu milder.

Even though it's just two weeks before Christmas, there's still plenty of time to get your flu shot. Most years, flu season doesn't peak until February, and it sometimes comes as late as March. But every year, it does come.

Who Says 'No' to the Flu Shot, and Why

And this year, despite a record number of flu doses on hand, many of us remain at risk. The RAND Internet-based survey of some 4,000 U.S. adults shows that:

  • 53% have no intention of getting flu vaccine, and 17% say they haven't yet but plan to.
  • 70% of healthy adults under age 50 have no intention of getting the vaccine; 16% say they plan to.
  • 46% of adults for whom flu vaccination is strongly recommended -- those with underlying conditions, those over 50, or those in close contact with infants, the ill, or the elderly -- have no intention of getting the vaccine; 17% say they plan to.

And too many people with conditions that make them especially vulnerable to flu aren't getting the news:

  • 52% of people with asthma have no intention of getting the flu vaccine.
  • 30% of people with diabetes have no intention of getting the flu vaccine.
  • 24% of people with heart disease have no intention of getting the flu vaccine.
  • 21% of people with chronic lung disease have no intention of getting the flu vaccine.

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