Adult influenza vaccination this season higher likely to be highest ever

Adult influenza vaccination this season higher likely to be highest ever

February 24, 2021
Glen Nowak

More U.S. adults 18 years old and older reported receiving or planning to receive an influenza vaccination during the 2020-2021 flu season than ever before according to findings from a December 2020 national survey. A total of 43.5% respondents reported having already received a flu vaccination, with an additional 13.5% stating they “definitely will get one” and another 9.3% stating they “probably will get one.” Together, this represents 66.3% of respondents who have received or intend to receive the influenza vaccine.

By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated flu vaccination coverage among adults ≥18 years was 48.4% for the 2019-2020 flu season, which was an increase of 3.1 percentage points from 2018-2019.

The findings come from a December 2020, national survey of 1,027 U.S. adults conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia Center for Health and Risk Communication in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The survey was led by Professor Glen Nowak, CHRC director and Associate Professor Michael Cacciatore, CHRC research director. The respondents came from the National Opinion Research Center’s AmeriSpeak panel. The AmeriSpeak panel uses a pre-screened, nationally representative pool of participants, to obtain rapid and projectable survey findings.

“Our survey shows that most Americans have or planned to act on the advice to get a flu vaccination this season,” said Nowak. “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.”

The survey results indicate much of the increase in flu vaccine uptake is being driven by people 60 years old and older. A total of 61.5% said they had already received the influenza vaccine in December, with another 12.0% stating they “would definitely get it” and 5.8% stating they “would probably get it.”

The survey results also indicated many demographic differences existed when it came to having received a flu vaccination. Forty-eight percent of white respondents reported having a flu vaccination by December, compared to 35.1% of Hispanic respondents and 30.1% of Black respondents. Having already received a flu vaccination was also much higher for respondents with a college or higher education and those with annual household incomes of $75,000 a year or more. Conversely, flu vaccination uptake and plans to get a flu vaccination were lowest for those 18-29 years old, those with some college or a high school education, and those with annual incomes less than $25,000. The survey found that 50.7% of those making more than $75,000 had already been vaccinated for the flu, while only 35% of those making less than $25,000 had been vaccinated.

“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,” Cacciatore said. “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 said.  “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.”

(Graphic: UGA Marketing & Communication)