Flu vaccinations for Americans poised to be higher this season than ever before

ATHENS, Ga. — The COVID-19 vaccine isn’t the only injection on many Americans’ minds lately. According to a new national survey from the University of Georgia, one in two adults is also preparing themselves for this year’s flu season as well.

The research, surveying over 1,000 adults, finds more Americans than ever before either already have or plan on getting their flu shot for the 2020-2021 season.

Among that group, 43.5 percent have already gotten their flu shot. Another 13.5 percent say they will “definitely” get one soon and 9.3 percent say they will “probably” get the vaccine. That works out to 66.3 percent of the poll signing up for the annual influenza shot.

For comparison, data from the CDC during the 2019-2020 flu season finds about 48.4 percent of U.S. adults received a flu vaccination. That was still a 3.1 percent increase over the 2018-2019 season however.

“Our survey shows that most Americans have or planned to act on the advice to get a flu vaccination this season,” says study leader Professor Glen Nowak, director of UGA’s Center for Health and Risk Communication, in a university release. “Further, these results strongly suggest the U.S. will be crossing an important threshold this flu season, which is over half of U.S. adults getting a flu vaccination.”

Older Americans are taking extra precautions

Notably, the survey also indicates that much of the added interest in the flu vaccine this year is coming from people over the age of 60. A total of 61.5 percent of respondents over 60 said they had already received their flu shot in December 2020. Another 12 percent plan to “definitely get it” and 5.8 percent will “probably get it.”

Diving into different demographics a bit further, 48 percent of white respondents already got their flu vaccine by the end of 2020. Just 35.1 percent of Hispanic respondents and 30.1 percent of Black respondents said the same. Also, Americans with a college education or those making an annual household income of over $75,000 were more likely to already be vaccinated.

Income disparity shows in flu vaccine rates

(Credit: University of Georgia)

On the other end of the vaccine spectrum, researchers find Americans between 18 and 29 years-old are most likely to be skeptical about flu shots. Americans with only some college or high school education and those making less than $25,000 a year also are least likely to prepare for the flu season. Among respondents earning over $75,000, over half (50.7%) have been vaccinated. For the under $25,000 income bracket, that percentage drops to just 35 percent.

“It was disappointing to see that significant differences by race, age, education and income persisted during a flu vaccination season that took place during a COVID pandemic,” adds study co-leader and associate professor Michael Cacciatore, CHRC research director. “It’s important that we continue to learn more about why these disparities exist so we can take steps that will reduce them.”

“Overall, it is good news to find that many people, particularly those at highest risk for serious flu or COVID-19 illness, followed the advice to get the flu vaccine. Hopefully, we can sustain that level of success in the years ahead,” Nowak concludes. “It also remains worrisome to find much lower flu vaccination rates and intentions in so many groups. We continue to have much work to do among Hispanic and Black adults and those with lower income and years of formal education when it comes to flu vaccination.”

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