Data released in late September by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases revealed that only 52% of U.S. adults plan to get vaccinated against influenza this season.
In a press release, representatives from NFID and other leading public health and medical organizations urged the public and healthcare professionals to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for everyone age 6 months and older to get vaccinated against flu annually.
“Many people underestimate the severity of flu, yet we know flu causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths each year in the United States,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II said in the release.
In reviewing vaccine coverage estimates from the CDC for the 2018-2019 flu season, Azar said, “we are making important gains in flu vaccination coverage in some groups of people, especially children, but in adults we see a disappointing plateau. We are under-utilizing this potentially life-saving resource.”
Overall, CDC estimates show that flu vaccination coverage has increased over the past decade. Flu vaccination coverage among children age 6 months to 17 years was 63% for the 2018-2019 flu season, an increase from 51% in 2010-2011. The most noteworthy improvement since 2010-2011 has been in coverage among teens age 13 to 17 years, which increased by almost 20 percentage points to 52% last season, although this age group still has the lowest coverage among children. Vaccination coverage among adults has increased slightly over the past decade, but remains about 45%.
Amid national conversations on vaccine hesitancy and suboptimal flu vaccination rates in the U.S., NFID commissioned a survey to better understand beliefs about flu and pneumococcal disease, as well as attitudes and practices around adult vaccination.
“Our survey revealed that nearly a quarter of U.S. adults at highest risk of flu-related complications — those who are 65 and older or who have an underlying condition like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease — do not plan to get vaccinated against flu this season. Nearly 60 percent of these individuals, who are also at increased risk for pneumococcal disease, report that they have never been advised to get vaccinated against pneumococcal disease,” Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of NFID, said in the release. “… Pneumococcal vaccines can be given at the same time as a flu vaccine, so it’s a great time to speak with a healthcare professional about which vaccines are best for you.”
Vaccination rates among adults age 18-49 years with at least one chronic health condition putting them at higher risk for flu-related complications was only 40% during the 2018-2019 flu season.
For the 2019-2020 season, vaccine manufacturers have estimated that up to 169 million doses of influenza vaccine will be available in the U.S. The composition of the vaccines available this season has been updated to protect against the influenza viruses that research suggests will be most common during the 2019-2020 season.
The CDC recommends the use of any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine. Options include the following:
• Standard influenza vaccine, which includes four influenza viruses (quadrivalent — two influenza A and two influenza B), for children and adults age 6 months or older.
• Adjuvant vaccine and high dose vaccine for adults age 65 years and older, both of which are designed to help initiate a more robust immune response.
• Flu vaccine grown in cell-culture (not eggs) for children age 4 years and older.
• Flu vaccine made using recombinant technology (another alternative to egg-based vaccine production) for adults age 18 years or older.
• Live-attenuated influenza vaccine that is given via nasal spray for children and adults (who are not pregnant) age 2-49 years.
The Charles County Health Department offers vaccinations Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The department is also hosting two more vaccination clinics: Smallwood Middle School, Nov. 7, 4 to 7 p.m. and Westlake High School, Nov. 12, 3 to 7 p.m. For more information, call 301-609-6900, or go to charlescountyhealth.org.