Why Some Will Get Flu Vaccine -- and Why Some Won't

65% of Moms Say Their Kids Will Get Flu Vaccine

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on October 07, 2010

Oct. 7, 2010 - This year, 95% of doctors but only 65% of mothers say they'll get their children vaccinated against the flu.

The figures come from a series of surveys commissioned by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), which strongly supports the CDC's recommendation that everyone over age 6 months get the flu vaccine.

The surveys, conducted in August and September, offer an intriguing look at who does and doesn't get their recommended flu vaccination -- and why.

"There is growing recognition of the threat flu poses and a growing understanding that vaccination is a best buy. It is the best way to protect yourself against the flu," CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MHP, said at a news conference to announce the findings.

The survey findings support Frieden's assertion. While only 18% of mothers said they'd changed their position on flu vaccination since last year, nearly all mothers who shifted opinions (88%) decided to vaccinate their kids.

The top reasons why mothers decided to vaccinate their children against the flu:

  • 96% want to protect their family.
  • 95% want to protect their communities.
  • 95% want to protect other children with underlying health conditions.
  • 93% worry that the flu can hospitalize a healthy child; 92% worry it can kill.
  • 71% said last year's flu pandemic made them more aware of how severe flu can be for children.

Mother's whose kids had once had the flu are more likely to plan to vaccinate their kids than those whose kids have never had the flu (70% vs. 56%).

Doctors and Flu Vaccination

If you haven't heard, 40% of people in health-care-associated jobs get flu shots. But the NFID poll of pediatricians and primary care doctors found that 95% of doctors plan to get their flu vaccine this year. Only 2% said they definitely would not.

And they aren't just getting protection for themselves: 96% of doctors recommend the vaccine to their close friends and extended families.

But even doctors don't know everything about flu vaccination. Only 39% of primary care doctors and just 75% of pediatricians know that the flu vaccine isn't recommended for kids younger than 6 months of age. Only 65% of doctors know that the vaccine now is recommended for all healthy adults ages 18-49.

Flu Vaccine Myths

If doctors are a bit confused over the universal recommendation for flu vaccination, the general public is guilty of some wishful thinking.

One in 10 Americans gets the flu each year. While 90% of deaths are in the elderly, many deaths and hospitalizations occur in otherwise healthy children and adults. And even a "mild" case of the flu will make you miserable for a week.

Yet among the 43% of Americans who say they probably or definitely won't get their flu vaccine this year:

  • 71% say there are other effective ways to prevent flu (Fact: While hand washing helps, it's not nearly as effective as vaccination).
  • 69% say they're healthy, so why worry about the flu.
  • 62% believe the flu vaccine can cause the flu (Fact: It can't) or cause side effects (Fact: The odds of serious harm from a flu shot are extremely small).
  • 51% worry about vaccine ingredients.
  • 47% say they never get the flu.
  • 35% say their immune system will be stronger if they get the flu.
  • 29% say they don't believe in any vaccines.
  • 18% say it's inconvenient to get vaccinated.

Americans have some other misconceptions about the flu vaccine:

  • 62% of adults think the flu vaccine protects against only one flu strain (Fact: It protects against three strains -- type B flu, type A H1N1 flu, and type A H3N2 flu).
  • 34% of adults think hand washing works just as well as vaccination.
  • 43% of adults don't know that grownups under age 50 can get the nasal mist vaccine instead of the flu shot.

The survey of mothers, conducted Aug. 12-25 among a national sample of 505 mothers of children ages 6 months to 18 years, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. It was fielded by Opinion Research Corporation.

The survey of doctors, conducted in September among 101 pediatricians and 300 primary care physicians, has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.8 percentage points. It was fielded by Sermo Inc.

The adult survey, conducted Aug. 27-30 in 1,010 adult men and women age 18 and older, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. It was fielded by Opinion Research Corporation.

Show Sources


News teleconference/webcast, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Oct. 7, 2010.

Thomas Frieden, MD, MHP, director, CDC.

News releases, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

"NFID Adults National Influenza Study," Alembic Health Communications, September 2010.

"Physician Health Practice Survey: Influenza Vaccination," Alembic Health Communications, September 2010.

"Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition 2010 National Study of Mothers of Children 6 Months and Older, African-American Mothers and Hispanic Mothers,"Alembic Health Communications, September 2010.

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