Flu diagnoses continue to rise; advocates fear misconceptions about flu vaccine will have negative impact on individuals, communities – National Consumers League

January 17, 2014

Contact: NCL Communications, Ben Klein, (202) 835-3323, benk@nclnet.org

Washington, DC—The flu is now widespread in 35 states, according to the latest reports from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and a new Gallup-Healthways poll indicates that nearly 3 percent of Americans have become ill with the flu in the last month. With flu cases on the rise, consumer health advocates are pointing to new data on American misperceptions about vaccinations and why that is a cause for concern.

survey released by the National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy group, reveals that over one in five (22%) U.S. parents surveyed admitted they’ve never received a flu shot, and only half (53%) of parents with children 17 and under have received a flu vaccination within the last year. The national survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive among 1,756 U.S. adult Americans, of whom 993 are parents of children under 18, in August – September 2013.

“According to our survey, only 44 percent of these parents said their child has received the vaccine,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director. “And 20 percent of Americans who do not get the vaccine say they avoid it because they mistakenly fear the vaccine increases one’s chance of contracting the virus. Consumers are clearly confused about the value of the flu shot for both individuals and for their community, and they need better education.”

According to the CDC, flu season has not yet peaked, with cases, hospitalizations, and even deaths still on the rise. The season has started later than usual this year, and, according to reports, the number of people seeking medical care for the flu climbed to more than 4 percent of all doctor visits last week, a near doubling from two weeks earlier, according to Associated Press. CDC data indicate that four children died of the flu last week.

The CDC recommends that all individuals over the age of 6 months receive the flu vaccine each year, with rare exceptions. It is especially important for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications if they get sick with the flu, including children under 5, pregnant women and those with medical conditions like asthma and diabetes.

“It used to be the case that medical experts recommended flu shots only for the most vulnerable groups,” said Rebecca Burkholder, NCL Vice President for Health Policy. “But because healthy people benefit from the flu vaccine as well, medical experts now recommend that nearly everyone get the flu shot. Vaccinations have, in recent years, developed a negative stigma, and this is preventing some of us from doing our part in disease prevention. Those who don’t get the flu shot put themselves and their families at risk of contracting the virus.”

Survey findings

The most common reason for not receiving the flu vaccine among adults who reported they have never received a flu shot was their good health (45%), side effects (29%), and perceived ineffectiveness of the vaccine (24%). Additionally:

  • One in five (21%) said the reason they have not received the flu vaccine is because they do not believe the flu is a serious illness.
  • One in five (20%) say they fear of contracting the flu from the vaccination is a reason they have not received the flu vaccine.

NCL’s survey also polled adult Americans about their perspectives on vaccines in general, not limited to the flu vaccine. Highlights from that include:

The most common reasons adults cite for not vaccinating in general:

  • Side effects: 41%
  • Ineffectiveness of the vaccines: 27%

The majority of Adults (87%) support mandatory vaccinations for school-aged children.

12% of parents of children 17 and under say they have missed a scheduled vaccination.

About the Survey

NCL commissioned this survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, with an unrestricted educational grant from Pfizer. NCL and Harris Interactive are solely responsible for the design of the survey

The NCL Vaccine Survey of 1,756 adult Americans was conducted with an emphasis on parents of children between 0-17, to investigate vaccination rates and opinions among the general US population. The survey was conducted online from August 22 to September 9, 2013.

Survey results are weighted to be representative of the US population for gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and region based on the current US Census.

The full survey report, including additional findings on vaccine perceptions, can be found here.

About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

About Harris Interactive®

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for The Harris Poll®, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research across a wide range of industries. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing a client’s research investment. Serving clients worldwide through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help our clients stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit theharrispoll.com.