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A third of US adults get flu jab

15th December 2008

More than 50% of adults in the US do not intend to receive a vaccination against seasonal influenza this winter.

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This reluctance to get the shot will increase the likelihood of the flu spreading.

The finding comes from the first ever midseason analysis of vaccinations.

William Schaffner of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases said that this is not good "report card" for public health.

Schaffner said that at least 70% of US adults should be vaccinated, according to recommendations from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There is a record supply of 146 million vaccine doses this year, following a shortage last year.

The flu kills 36,000 Americans each year, sending 200,000 to hospitals.

In years when the flu is not particularly rampant, the average person has a 5% of getting sick. In a particularly infectious year, the average person has a 25% chance of catching flu.

This can include spending several days in bed, missing a week of work or school, and taking about two weeks for a full recovery.

The risk is much higher if the person infected with the flu has an underlying illness, if they are over age 50, or if they are an infant. Getting vaccinated makes the flu milder.

This is true even in a year when the vaccine made in advance of flu season doesn't fully match the genetic configuration of circulating flu viruses.

Flu season doesn't often peak until February, sometimes coming as late as March.

The RAND internet-based survey studied 4,000 people in its investigation into why people are not getting vaccinated.

Of the people surveyed, 20% believe that flu vaccines are not effective enough to merit the trouble of getting a shot.

A greater percentage of people (25%) believe that they do not need to be vaccinated.

Another 20% of people fears that the flu vaccine will make them ill.

Schaffner said that the idea that people can get flu from the flu vaccine exists, and that people have to combat it. He said the virus cannot reconstitute itself from the vaccine, which contains only part of the virus' genetic material.

Litjen Tan, director of infectious diseases for the American Medical Association, said that if people are not worried about their own health, they should consider the health of others.

Tan said they have seen an increase in MRSA complications with influenza, resulting in increased death rates among children.

Tan said that since infants under six months of age cannot be vaccinated, vaccination of pregnant women and people who come into contact with children is an excellent way of protecting the very young.

 

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