Glen Nowak shares goals of graduate studies at Grady College

In the first few weeks as the Grady College’s new associate dean for research and graduate studies, Glen Nowak has welcomed a new group of first-year graduate students, strategized with fellow faculty members and begun his new UGA administration responsibilities. In his new role, Nowak knows the value that Grady College students and faculty bring to other researchers and instructors on campus.

Nowak was named the associate dean for research and graduate studies at Grady College in 2021.

“We are an asset to the larger UGA academic ecosystem because of our expertise in communications technology and content,” Nowak said at a recent “Lunch and Learn” presented by Grady College.

Nowak was an Advertising and Public Relations Department faculty member from 1989 to 1998, and since rejoining the faculty in January 2013. In between, he spent 14 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He joined CDC in 1999 as communications director for CDC’s National Immunization Program, a position he held for six years before becoming the agency’s director of media relations.

Nowak told graduate students and fellow faculty that Grady College is well qualified to help lead UGA with its strategic goals because the media and communication expertise, work and research in the College are highly valued by a wide arrange of disciplines. He said it promotes collaborations with other researchers here and at other organizations because Grady faculty can bring needed perspectives and tools, including communication technologies, to projects that need or want well-design communication strategies or materials. In addition, the media and communication skills and experiences that Grady provides graduate students well equip them for securing employment upon graduation.

“Employers value our graduate students particularly when it comes to research skills and communication capabilities,” Nowak said.

Ultimately, Nowak says the main goal for graduate studies at Grady College is to help PhD and master’s students achieve their learning and career goals.

“Our students graduating and having accomplished their goals and objectives — that is what success looks like,” Nowak said.

Other graduate studies goals include increased university and public visibility, achieving success with external funding proposals and involved in research collaborations with faculty across UGA.

Glen Nowak named associate dean for research and graduate studies

Grady College proudly announces the appointment of Glen Nowak as the college’s new associate dean for research and graduate studies.

Nowak, a professor of advertising and director of the Center for Health & Risk Communication, assumes the new role as current associate dean, Jeff Springston, takes on a new role of Director of MFA Programs.


“I’m delighted to add Dr. Nowak to the leadership team,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “As a world-class researcher with rich experience at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he’s well positioned to build on existing collaborations not only in the critical area of health communication but across the college and the broader university community.”

Nowak is a prolific researcher specializing in areas of health, vaccine, and risk-related communication including interventions, campaigns, messaging and messages, news media and provider-patient communication. He has been widely consulted and quoted in the media in recent months about COVID-19 vaccine education, messaging and acceptance. He has contributed to several panel discussions and advisory committees about the COVID-19 vaccine, including the UGA Dean Rusk International Center conference in January and the federal National Vaccine Advisory Committee, an entity that advises the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services. Nowak co-authored a paper about vaccination acceptance that was published by the New England Journal of Medicine in September 2020.

His most recent research, published in February, indicated that more U.S. adults appear to have received an influenza vaccination this flu season than ever before.

Nowak also participates in the College’s Crisis Communication Think Tank and recently co-edited a book on the subject, “Advancing Crisis Communication Effectiveness.”

“I look forward to working with the College’s faculty, staff, and graduate students on further strengthening our programs, scholarship and research efforts,” Nowak said. “I plan to continue the efforts to expand awareness of the faculty’s research and communication expertise across and beyond the campus.”

Prior to rejoining the Grady faculty in January 2013, Nowak worked 14 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He spent six years as director of media relations at CDC and six years as communications director for CDC’s National Immunization Program. He has experience in managing and implementing health and risk communications programs, media relations, health information campaigns and social marketing. Prior to joining CDC in January 1999, Nowak taught at Grady College for ten years.

Government and non-government public health agencies frequently seek out Nowak’s vast experience and in 2014, he assisted the Task Force for Global Health in its efforts to develop and implement a communication strategy for a worldwide effort related to polio eradication.  More recently, Nowak was a visiting communications scientist with the Department Health and Human Services’ National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO), working on research projects involving vaccination hesitancy, confidence and acceptance.

Nowak earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and his Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

In his new role, Nowak will direct the college’s research efforts, as well as its graduate program, which includes eight Master of Arts programs and its ranked Ph.D. program.

Springston, who ably directed graduate studies at the college for 15 years, will oversee the college’s recent MFA offerings including the low-residency MFA in Narrative Media Writing and the new MFA in Film, Television and Digital Media.

New crisis communication book melds scholarly research with practitioner experience

The intersection of professional experience in crisis communication and theoretical research of the complexities of the topic are highlighted in a new book, “Advancing Crisis Communication Effectiveness.”

Edited by three Grady College professors, this book is an education in navigating the challenges that communicators face to protect public health and safety and shield organizational reputations from crisis-inflicted damage.

Crisis communication quote
One insight of many from the new book, “Advancing Crisis Communication Effectiveness.”

The book is edited by Yan Jin, Bryan Reber and Glen Nowak and includes submitted chapters from numerous academic and professional crisis communication thought leaders.  Among the subjects covered are crisis communication for corporations and non-profits, the benefits and pitfalls of using social media to cover natural disasters, dealing with misinformation, navigating media relations during governmental and public affairs crisis and examining situational theories helpful in dealing with crisis.

“This book is very translational because it brings together different theories and a diversity of voices,” said Jin, the UGA Athletic Association Professor in Grady College. “We are able to talk about theory and how it can help our practitioners better explain and predict outcomes, making their work more effective. The academics bring value of theory-based insights and the practitioners bring fresh, current challenges to help scholars identify the next research frontiers.”

One topic covered in the book that is especially relevant today is the discussion of crisis and healthcare. Nowak, the director of the Grady Center for Health and Risk Communication, says health communications is an ever-evolving area as the recent COVID-19 outbreak has proven.

“A lot of the assumptions that we have in the health communications space need to be revisited because it’s hard to come up with a simple formula for how to respond,” Nowak said. “Every single day something happens that you didn’t anticipate. As this book illustrates, we need a lot more sophistication both among practitioners and among academics who are trying to do research that will help practitioners.”

The intersection of an academic approach together with a practical approach by professional communicators is unique and made possible through the collaboration of the Crisis Communication Think Tank. The CCTT is a group of invited scholars and practitioners who are experts on the subject of crisis communication. The group builds domestic and international collaborations to advance crisis communication science and practice on emerging topics.


“This book is one more example of how UGA is at the leading edge of the conversation around crisis communication and research,” added Bryan Reber, the C. Richard Yarbrough Professor in Crisis Communication Leadership. “Between the CCTT and the Center for Health and Risk Communication, we are positioned really well to facilitate these discussions and collaborations.”  

The subjects covered in the book are based on discussions of the group and are authored by several CCTT members including scholars from University of Maryland, University of North Carolina and the University of Amsterdam along with professionals from UPS, and Imagem Corporativa (Brazil), as well as CCTT-affiliated partners such as the Museum of Public Relations, among others. Several additional Grady College faculty and alumni also collaborated on chapters for the book.

Grady College alumnus Dick Yarbrough (ABJ ’59) wrote the forward to the book and discussed how important it is for communicators to be involved with strategic conversation and the decision-making process. Yarbrough was the managing director of communications and government relations for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and gained a wealth of crisis communication experience with the Centennial Olympic Park Bombing.

“This book is a perfect blend of the expertise of highly-qualified academicians and the experiences of communications professionals who have dealt successfully with a variety of crises in their own organizations,” Yarbrough said. “I am encouraged that it will be available to current and future generations of communicators.”

 

Article on COVID-19 vaccination acceptance co-authored by Glen Nowak published in New England Journal of Medicine

Glen Nowak, director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at the University of Georgia, co-authored a Perspective article addressing one of the most pressing topics facing the United States: achieving high acceptance of a vaccine for COVID-19.

The article, “When Will We Have a Vaccine? — Understanding Questions and Answers about Covid-19 Vaccination,” was published Sept. 8 in the New England Journal of Medicine. It is co-authored by Barry R. Bloom of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Walter Orenstein of the Emory Vaccine Center at Emory University School of Medicine.

The perspective calls attention to the activities and outcomes that need to be achieved before a COVID-19 vaccine is recommended and available for use in the United States. It notes that many people, including healthcare providers and journalists, are asking “When will we have a vaccine to protect us against COVID-19?” Nowak and his co-authors point out those who ask that question really are asking three questions:

  1. When will the public be able to have confidence that available COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective?
  2. When will a COVID-19 vaccine be available to the general public?
  3. When will COVID-19 vaccination rates be high enough that society can return to a pre-pandemic world?

“Our perspective article provides advice on what is needed to achieve high confidence in COVID-19 vaccines,” said Nowak, a professor at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“In the U.S., billions of dollars have been invested in developing COVID-19 vaccines, including five that are currently being tested with people. However, it is not enough to have a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. Most people need to be willing to be vaccinated. To achieve that, we need visible COVID-19 vaccine education efforts that involve transparency, engagement and dialogue.”

Nowak noted that investments and efforts in healthcare provider and public education about a new vaccine usually do not happen until there is a vaccination recommendation. Those efforts typically receive relatively little government funding and often only focus on healthcare providers.

“Often times, it is assumed by many experts that new vaccines will speak for themselves. That is, their benefits are so obvious and important people will want to get vaccinated,” Nowak said.  “What usually happens, though, is healthcare providers and the people who should receive the new vaccine have many questions and concerns. They want to know how safety was determined and how well the vaccine will protect them.”

The NEJM perspective article is intended to provide guidance to federal and state government agencies and health officials who are hoping new COVID-19 vaccines will be widely accepted by the public. This includes the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Federal Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nowak said a broader, more in-depth approach needs to be taken starting now when it comes to communicating and educating people about the COVID-19 vaccines. Officials need to be transparent and communicate often about how vaccines are being evaluated for safety and effectiveness as well as how it was determined which groups of people should receive the first available doses. There also need to be steps taken now that will help get as much acceptance as possible when the vaccine is ready, especially for those who are first in line to get it. This can be done through trusted healthcare professionals and user-friendly materials that provide safety and effectiveness information.

“As much as we all want the COVID-19 pandemic to end, we can’t assume fast and widespread  acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines,” Nowak said. “We need to build trust and confidence in how these vaccines were developed and tested if we expect to achieve high acceptance.”

Nowak and Orenstein worked together at the CDC when Nowak was the director of communications for the National Immunization Program and Orenstein directed the program. Currently, Nowak serves on the National Vaccine Advisory Committee’s sub-committee on vaccine confidence. He is also working on research focusing on COVID-19 vaccine acceptance.

Read “When Will We Have a Vaccine?” here.

How journalists are handling news about the coronavirus outbreak

Editor’s note: this feature originally appeared on the UGA Today website

Journalists face some unique challenges when they try to report accurately on a major infectious disease outbreak like the one associated with COVID-19, according to professor Glen Nowak, director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at Grady College and a former director of media relations at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including during the 2009 H1N1A influenza pandemic.

Below, Nowak provides his thoughts about the communication challenges facing journalists and the public when it comes to COVID-19 tests and testing.

Why has COVID-19 testing been in the news?

Diagnostic tests and testing are an essential part of an infectious disease outbreak response. After the first cases of new infectious disease have been identified, health care providers need to be able to quickly determine who else is infected, particularly other people who have similar symptoms, while public health officials need to quickly learn how many others have been infected, where infections and virus transmission are happening, and which people may be most likely to be infected and to have severe illness from their infections.

News media are interested in providing their audiences that information as quickly as possible. In the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., testing also made the news because there were problems with the initial test that CDC provided to state labs. This caused delays in being able to identify patients with COVID-19.

Much attention has been given to the importance of testing, including because some countries, such as South Korea, have been able to quickly and extensively test people to determine if they are infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and as a result, slow its spread.

Why will COVID-19 testing continue to be of news media and public interest?

COVID-19 tests and testing will continue to be in the news for at least three reasons. One, President Trump has said that a goal going forward is for anyone who wants to be tested to be able to do so. This means many news media will continue to be doing stories about the availability of COVID-19 tests at the local and state level. The supply of COVID-19 diagnostic tests is currently well short of the number needed to achieve this goal and supplies vary considerably across the country.

Two, there is disagreement about who needs to be tested and who should be tested. Hospitals and health care facilities that are dealing with large numbers of infected and potentially infected patients do not have the ability to test people with mild or no symptoms. As a result, we can expect news media stories about who can and cannot get tested.

Third, the information gained from diagnostic tests increases medical, science and public health knowledge regarding where this new coronavirus is, how many infections it is causing, the types of symptoms and range of illness people who are infected experience, and the percentage of people who experienced severe illness or died from their infection. That knowledge, in turn, is used to make decisions about how to slow and prevent the spread of the virus.

What are some of the communication challenges that COVID-19 tests and testing bring?

COVID-19 tests and testing bring many communication challenges. One challenge involves competing messages regarding who should be tested and how the tests should be used. While the CDC has issued and posted specific recommendations regarding who should be tested, decisions about testing are at the discretion of state and local health departments and individual clinicians. Some are testing people who do not have known exposures to the virus or who have mild symptoms, while others are limiting testing to people in risk groups or who have significant symptoms.

A second challenge is that there are different types of tests and different testing methods. There is not a single COVID-19 test. Most of the COVID-19 test and testing stories have focused on diagnostic tests – that is, tests used to determine if a person is currently infected. There are many companies providing these types of tests, with the time it takes to get results ranging from as short as 45 minutes to as long as a few days.

Less attention has been given to efforts involving the development and use of tests that can tell whether a person has been infected in the past with this new coronavirus. These are typically blood tests that look for antibodies that indicate if a person was infected. These tests are important because they help provide estimates of how many COVID-19 cases have gone undetected. This type of testing increases understanding of how many people had no symptoms or symptoms so mild that they were not noticed.

As this information becomes available, there is a good chance it will increase significantly increase the number of confirmed cases and lower fatality estimates. It is essential to accurately convey this information without creating the impression that the increase in confirmed cases involves new infections.

When it comes to COVID-19 tests and testing, what advice do you have for the news media?

As more COVID diagnostic tests become available and used, it is important that journalists, news media outlets, the public and policymakers understand that different types and uses of testing will be done going forward. They also need to understand the reasons for using and not using diagnostic tests, especially as tests become more widely available.

Finally, it will be helpful for journalists and policymakers to understand the difference between using tests to make medical diagnoses versus the use of testing to learn more about the extent and spread of the virus, the characteristics of the virus, and the effectiveness of measures intended to slow or prevent the spread of the virus. Doctors and medical facilities need tests that accurately and rapidly provide a diagnosis.

Those tests may not be designed or able to provide the more detailed information that comes from laboratory tests and analyses. It is also likely the case that as the CDC builds a surveillance system designed to obtain and provide much greater information about this new coronavirus that effort will involve much testing of people who do not have symptoms or known exposure to the virus. Testing people who appear to be healthy will be essential for getting a better picture of how widespread this virus is and the percentage of infections with no or very mild symptoms.

Related reading:

Nowak discusses how news media face COVID-19 challenges

Editor’s note: this feature originally appeared on UGA Today.

Journalists face some unique challenges when they try to report accurately on a major infectious disease outbreak like the one associated with COVID-19, according to professor Glen Nowak, a former director of media relations at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication in Grady College.

Below, Nowak shares his thoughts about COVID-19 communications and how journalists are handling news about the pandemic.

What are some of the challenges journalists face while covering an outbreak like this one?

Most laypeople, including journalists, have limited knowledge about infectious diseases, including how they spread or how long it can take before an infection causes symptoms. Unfortunately, many infectious diseases, particularly those that are new or new to us, bring much complexity and uncertainty. Infectious diseases often have incubation periods, cause initial symptoms that are not unique, and differ in how they are spread as well as how easily they are spread. This makes it difficult for journalists who are covering an outbreak to characterize the health threat, who is affected, and how things will unfold in the days and weeks ahead. Thanks to the complexity and uncertainty, it is often unclear to journalists, and in turn, the public, why public health actions and measures are or are not being taken by organizations like the CDC.

As the COVID-19 outbreak also illustrates, it can also be difficult for journalists to get access to the government experts and public health people for interviews. On one hand, journalists have many potential sources and places they can go for information, especially websites and university experts. On the other hand, they’re likely to have great difficulty getting access to the critical sources, such as the scientists working at CDC, the Food and Drug Administration or the National Institutes of Health.

How do journalists convey important information without sensationalizing or causing a panic?

First, it is important to recognize that it is the statements and actions taken by public health and government agencies that is usually the primary source of people’s concerns, questions, and worry. Second, panic is an extremely rare outcome in the truest sense of the term, which is taking irrational actions that have no value or purpose. With respect to the media, they have to balance using words, phrases, and images that convey the seriousness of the situation with those that primarily seek to grab attention. They also have to decide how they are going to portray information from official sources so that it conveys an appropriate and useful tone and frame. With COVID-19 updates and information, at this point the goal is to foster the right level of worry and concern, including so that people’s actions are helpful.

When you look at the wide range of responses that people have to media stories, it’s important to remember that those news stories on the actions being taken, recommended or considered primarily exist because journalists are covering the COVID-19 developments. COVID-19 is getting much media attention because government agencies and others are holding press conferences and media interviews to issue updates, warnings and recommendations. I think sometimes we focus too much on the news media when it comes to being satisfied or dissatisfied with the volume or visibility of information, and fail to recognize government agencies and other organizations are using and relying on news media to convey messages broadly and urge widespread actions.

Do you think news media has done a good job reporting on this issue so far?

I’ve been impressed for the most part. Not only are major and local news media outlets covering the story, many are also producing and promoting very helpful and easy-to-understand COVID-19 resources that are updated regularly and that are linked to CDC and other official sources. These include local actions as well as answers to frequently asked COVID-19 questions. As a result, it is easy for people who want more information to find and get it from a variety of places. Most news media have also taken down paywalls to make it possible to access the latest COVID-19 news for free.

Encouraging young adults who don’t get a flu vaccination to get one: Study finds virtual reality may provide a path to increased acceptance

Using a virtual reality simulation to show how flu spreads and its impact on others could be a way to encourage more people to get a flu vaccination, according to a study by researchers at the University of Georgia and the Oak Ridge Associated Universities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This is the first published study to look at immersive virtual reality as a communication tool for improving flu vaccination rates among “flu vaccine avoidant” 18-to-49-year-old adults.

“When it comes to health issues, including flu, virtual reality holds promise because it can help people see the possible effects of their decisions, such as not getting a flu vaccine,” said Glen Nowak, the principal investigator and director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication headquartered at Grady College.  “In this study, we used immersive virtual reality to show people three outcomes—how if infected, they can pass flu along to others; what can happen when young children or older people get flu; and how being vaccinated helps protect the person who is vaccinated as well as others. Immersive VR increases our ability to give people a sense of what can happen if they do or don’t take a recommended action.”

The research, “Using Immersive Virtual Reality to Improve the Beliefs and Intentions of Influenza Vaccine Avoidant 18- to 49-year-olds,” was published by the journal Vaccine on December 2, which falls during National Influenza Vaccination Week (NVIW), Dec. 1 – 7, 2019. NIVW is a national awareness week focused on highlighting the importance of influenza vaccination.

The research was conducted by faculty at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, including faculty in Grady’s Center for Health and Risk Communication. In addition to Nowak, other Grady faculty involved with the research include Nathaniel Evans, Bartosz Wojdynski, Sun Joo Ahn and María E.Len-Ríos. Kim Landrum, who teaches graphics classes at Grady College, helped illustrate the virtual reality and video simulations. The research was supported with support from a grant and researchers from ORAU.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the 2017-18 flu season, only 26.9% of 18- to 49-year-olds in the United States received a recommended annual influenza vaccination even though it is recommended for all 18-to-49-year-olds. The low current acceptance of flu vaccination makes it important to identify more persuasive ways to educate these adults about flu vaccination. The findings from this study suggest one-way virtual reality can be more effective is it can create a sense of presence or feeling like one is a part of what is happening.

The 171 participants in this study self-identified as those who had not received a flu shot last year and did not plan to receive one during the 2017-18 influenza season. In the study, participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups: 1) a five-minute virtual reality experience; 2) a 5-minute video that was identical to the VR experience but without the 3-dimensional and interactive elements; 3) an e-pamphlet that used text and pictures from the video presented on a tablet computer; and 4) a control condition that only viewed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza Vaccination Information Statement, which is often provided before a flu vaccine is given and describes benefits and risks. Participants in the VR, video and e-pamphlet conditions also viewed the CDC VIS before answering a series of questions regarding flu vaccination, including whether they would get a flu vaccine.

Glen Nowak and Karen Carera discuss whether virtual reality could help vaccination acceptance on the ORAU podcast, “Further Together.” Listen here.

In the VR condition, participants were provided headsets, which enabled them to vividly experience the information and events being shown as if they were in the story and video game controllers, which enabled them to actively participate at points in the story.  Compared to video or the e-pamphlet, the VR condition created a stronger perception of presence – that is, a feeling of “being there” in the story, which, in turn, increased participants’ concern about transmitting flu to others. This increased concern was associated with greater confidence that one’s flu vaccination would protect others, more positive beliefs about flu vaccine and increased intention to get a flu vaccination. Neither the e-pamphlet nor the video were able to elicit a sense of presence nor were they able to improve the impact of the VIS on the confidence, belief and intention measures.

“This study affirms there is much to be excited about when it comes to using virtual reality for heath communication,” Karen Carera, senior evaluation specialist at ORAU said. “However, the findings suggest that for virtual reality to change beliefs and behaviors, the presentations used need to do more than deliver a story. They need to get users to feel like they are actually in the story.”

“Using immersive virtual reality to improve the beliefs and intentions of influenza vaccine avoidant 18-to-49-year-olds: Considerations, effects, and lessons learned,” by Glen J. Nowak, et al. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2019.11.009. It appears online in “Vaccine” (2019) published by Elsevier.

More people getting flu vaccine this year

Compared with last year more adults getting and intending to get a flu vaccination in 2018-19 flu season

More Americans have or intend to get a flu vaccine this fall, according to a new survey by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication Center for Health and Risk Communication.

The nationwide survey of 1,020 U.S. adults, conducted between Oct. 16 and Nov. 5, 2018, found that 27 percent of respondents indicated they had already received a flu vaccination this fall, with another 21 percent indicating they would definitely receive one and 13 percent indicating they would probably receive one.

Among adults 65 years old and older, 46 percent said they had already received one.

Overall, about one in five respondents said they definitely would not get a flu vaccination in this flu season, while 16 percent said they probably would not do so. In the 2017-2018 influenza season, CDC surveys found 37 percent of all adults received an annual flu vaccination, the lowest level in seven years.

“The initial findings regarding this year’s flu vaccination are positive and encouraging – they suggest things started well,” said Glen Nowak, professor and director of the Grady College CHRC. “One in four adults indicated they were vaccinated by early November and a large majority said it would be very easy to get a flu vaccination if they wanted one. The potential exists that a larger percentage of U.S. adults than last year will ultimately get a flu vaccination in the 2018-19 season and that overall flu vaccination rates in the U.S. may return to the 43 percent to 45 percent seen prior to last season.”

The survey was designed by Nowak and Michael Cacciatore, assistant professor and research director for the Grady College CHRC, and carried out by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Funding for the survey was provided by the Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication and Razorfish Health, a healthcare communications agency.

Respondents were sampled from the NORC AmeriSpeaks panel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. Overall results from this survey have a margin of error of +/- 4.24 percent.

The CDC recommends routine annual influenza vaccination of all persons 6 months of age and older, unless there is a health or medical reason not to do so.

However, while the survey found that 74 percent of respondents said an annual flu vaccination was something that was recommended for someone their age, 13 percent said it was not and 11 percent were unsure. The survey found that 61 percent of those who were aware of the recommendation received a flu vaccination in the past 12 months compared to 14 percent of those who were unaware.

The survey also found strong positive links between flu vaccination and age and receiving a recommendation from one’s doctor or healthcare provider. Two out of three respondents said a physician or healthcare provider told them in the past year that they should receive a flu vaccination.

Overall, 66 percent of those getting such a recommendation got a flu vaccination in the past year compared to 20 percent among those who did not receive a recommendation. With respect to age, 69 percent of respondents 65 years old and older reported receiving a flu vaccination in the past 12 months, compared to 52 percent of 50-64 year olds, 44 percent of 31-49 year olds, and 34 percent of 19-30 year olds.

The CHRC findings are being released during National Influenza Vaccination Week, which is December 2-8, 2018. CDC established NIVW in 2005 to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond.

Studies from many influenza seasons have consistently shown that relatively few people get vaccinated against influenza after the end of November. According to the CDC, more than 160 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed this season.

“These results highlight the importance of efforts like National Influenza Vaccination Week in helping people follow through on their intentions to get vaccinated,” Nowak said. “It’s likely many of those intending to get vaccinated still need to do so, and they need to know that it is not too late.

Public skepticism would likely greet a new Zika vaccine, study says

As scientists race to create a vaccine for the Zika virus, new research from the University of Georgia suggests almost half of Americans wouldn’t be interested in getting the shot even if public health officials recommended it for them.

Only one in three people in an October 2016 nationally representative survey said they would be willing to get a Zika shot if one were available and recommended. More than two out of five respondents said they would not be interested in getting a Zika vaccine, and another quarter were undecided on the question.

One possible explanation for people’s hesitancy to accept a future Zika vaccine is the newness of the vaccine, said Glen Nowak, the lead researcher and director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication in UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The center focuses on health and risk communication-related research, teaching and service.

“The word ‘new’ in front of a vaccine doesn’t work as well as when you put ‘new’ in front of laundry detergent,” he said. “Many people interpret ‘new’ consumer products as things that are better and improved, and thus worth trying. When you put ‘new’ in front of ‘vaccine,’ people think experimental or that there’s not enough experience with it, and they take a ‘wait and see’ approach.”

Less than a quarter of respondents in the survey said they would trust a new Zika vaccine. Conversely, three out of four people said they trusted in the tetanus shot’s effectiveness, and just slightly under half of Americans trust in the seasonal flu shot to be safe and effective.

Initial reluctance among the public to embrace a new Zika vaccine could pose challenges for vaccine manufacturers and public health officials.

“For things like Zika, Ebola and dengue fever, it would be very helpful to have safe and effective vaccines,” Nowak said. “But there needs to be consumer interest and demand to make vaccine research and development investments worthwhile. It is often not enough to have a recommendation to use a vaccine. Public health officials and health care providers need to educate people about the value and benefits of receiving the vaccine so that people for whom it is recommended actually get it.”

Formulating a recommendation for a mosquito-transmitted disease like Zika would likely be difficult because almost all currently recommended vaccines are for diseases that are primarily transmitted from person to person, Nowak said. Additionally, since the vaccines are still in the early stage of development, scientists don’t yet know how a Zika vaccine would be administered or how many doses people would need.

“It’s not likely that a vaccine for a mosquito-transmitted illness would simply be added to the childhood or adult vaccination schedules,” he said. “Rather, it is more likely such a vaccine would be recommended for people who live in Zika-affected areas or people who travel to such areas. That said, Zika can be transmitted by people to other people and mosquitoes can travel in unpredictable ways.”

The research involved a nationally representative survey data conducted in October. The data comes from the National Opinion Research Center’s AmeriSpeak panel. Collaborators on the research include Michael Cacciatore, an assistant professor of public relations, and Maria Len-Rios, an associate professor of public relations, at UGA.

New survey shows only half of people plan to get flu shots this year

Americans are split on getting an annual flu shot, with four out of 10 having done so in the past year and around half saying they had already received or were planning to get the vaccine this year, according to new national survey data analyzed by University of Georgia researchers.

People across the country grapple with the decision of whether to get a flu shot every year, with many opting not to vaccinate because of the fluctuation in the shot’s effectiveness from one flu season to the next. But their decision has ramifications beyond whether just keeping them healthy, said Glen Nowak, a professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and director of Grady’s Center for Health and Risk Communication.

“Your flu vaccination helps protect other people from flu, including both really young and older family members who are more vulnerable to severe illness,” Nowak said. “There’s evidence that the vaccine is often most effective in healthy adults 18 to 49, so by them being vaccinated they not only protect themselves from the flu, but they can help reduce the transmission of flu to others.”

Overall, around half of the survey respondents said they definitely or probably would not get the flu vaccine this year. As of October, less than 10 percent of 30- to 59-year-olds and only 5 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds had received a flu shot, and only 13 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, 18 percent of 30- to 44-year-olds and 30 percent of 45- to 49-year-olds said they were planning to get one. Two out of three people over the age of 60 were planning to or already had received the shot in October.

The flu vaccine is one of only two shots recommended for all adults, the other being a tetanus booster every 10 years. While 75 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed in the nationally representative research said they trusted the tetanus shot to be effective and safe, only around half indicated they trusted the flu vaccine.

“One of the challenges with the flu vaccine is we’ve sort of plateaued in terms of the number of people who get the seasonal flu vaccine,” Nowak said. “That’s unfortunate because more people can clearly benefit from getting it. It’s not a perfect vaccine, but it’s the best protection you can have from influenza.”

One factor that influenced people’s decisions to get a flu shot was their history of getting vaccinated in previous flu seasons; people who received a flu vaccination in previous years were most likely to get a flu vaccination this year. This is a finding that provides hope for a higher adult vaccination rate in the future if more children grow up getting the vaccine.

“People most trust vaccines they’ve had experiences with,” Nowak said. “When people gain experience with a vaccine they often become more willing to follow the vaccination recommendation.”

Flu vaccination is recommended for all adults, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is promoting later-season vaccination with National Influenza Vaccination Week, which takes place Dec. 4-10.

The research involved a nationally representative survey of adults 19 years old and older. The data was collected by the National Opinion Research Center using its AmeriSpeak’s panel. Collaborators on the research include Michael Cacciatore, an assistant professor of public relations, and Maria Len-Rios, an associate professor of public relations, in the Grady College at UGA.