Why Flu Shot Rates Are Low in 2020

December 19, 2020
Kevin Kunzmann

A discussion with a survey researcher on the 35% of US adults who state they won't get the vaccine this season.

New survey data from the NORC Spotlight on Health show that only half of Americans have been vaccinated for influenza (flu) as of early November, and more than one-third of adults do not intend to get a flu shot at all this season.

Another 11% in the online, nationally representative questionnaire said they were less likely to receive the annual vaccination over concerns surrounding coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).

People over age 60, who are at a higher risk for both flu- and coronavirus-related complications, reported the highest vaccination rate of 71%. Young adults between the ages of 18-29 year were the least likely to report being vaccinated, at 28%. Among adults who have children living in their home, 43% said they do not plan to have them vaccinated.

These results are particularly troubling at a time when hospital bedding and resources are exhausted by the pandemic, and when the holiday season is more likely to spike the spread of both respiratory viruses throughout the country.

In an interview with HCPLive, Caroline Pearson, senior vice president of Public Health research at NORC at the University of Chicago, discussed the survey results and the growing discussion of flu vaccine hesitancy or indifference in the US.

“About 32% still think they’re going to get flu from flu shot,” Pearson explained. “It’s definitely a concern, and one that’s frustrating for health officials to explain. The reality is it doesn’t really matter whether people think they have the flu or that they just have bad side effects. People don’t want to feel unwell.”