Although this year’s winter virus season is predicted to be severe, approximately 22% of US adults are worried about themselves or a family member getting infected with influenza, according to the results of a survey conducted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).
- Despite the availability of vaccines for influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a significant percentage of US adults remain hesitant about vaccination, making it crucial for pharmacists to engage in education and counseling on the importance of immunization.
- Only 40% of respondents plan to get updated COVID-19 and RSV vaccines, making it crucial for pharmacists to engage in education and counseling on the importance of immunization.
- Respondents cited concerns about adverse effects, vaccine distrust, and perceived vaccine ineffectiveness as key barriers that pharmacists can help address.
The results showed that similar levels were seen regarding COVID-19 at 23% and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection at 19%.
"For the first time, we have immunizations available to help protect against the 3 major respiratory viruses—COVID-19, flu, and RSV," Mandy K. Cohen, MD, MPH, director of the CDC, said in a statement. "I strongly encourage you and your family to get the immunizations that are right for you. We must use all available tools to protect those most at risk, including infants and young children, pregnant [individuals], older adults, and those with chronic health conditions."
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Furthermore, approximately 65% of respondents agreed that vaccination is the best way to prevent against influenza-related hospitalizations and death; however, 43% of US adults do not plan on or are unsure whether they will get vaccinated against influenzas. With updated COVID-19 vaccines being recommended, only 40% plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the statement. For adults aged 60 years and older, only 40% plan to get vaccinated against RSV.
Additionally, the data showed that even though the influenza and COVID-19 vaccines can be coadministered, only 38% of those responding to the survey said they would get both vaccines at the same time, if offered. Survey respondents indicated that adverse effects, distrust of vaccines, and the belief that vaccines do not work well were the main reasons why they would not get the vaccine.
At a news conference held on September 28, 2023, health officials from NFID and the CDC said that everyone aged 6 months and older should get vaccinated against influenza and COVID-19 this season. Further, they said those who are at the highest risk for severe disease should discuss RSV prevention tools, including vaccines and monoclonal antibodies, with a health care professional. They added that those individuals should also discuss pneumococcal vaccination.
"As health care professionals, we need to address these unfounded concerns and create realistic expectations about what vaccines can and cannot do," Patricia A. Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, president of the NFID, said in the statement. "Even in cases when vaccination does not prevent infection entirely, getting vaccinated can help protect against serious complications, including hospitalization and death."
The results of the survey also showed that only 40% of US adults who are at higher risk for pneumococcal disease were advised by a health care provider to get a pneumococcal vaccine. This included individuals who were aged 65 years and older and those with chronic health conditions. Among those who were recommended to get the pneumococcal vaccine, 79% received it.
Approximately 75% of respondents said they trust their health care provider the most for information about influenza vaccines, which highlights the importance of recommending vaccinations to patients. Schaffner emphasized that the influenza season is a good time to recommend the pneumococcal vaccination due to serious complications of the disease on influenza.
Regarding testing and treatment, approximately 66% of individuals said they would use an at-home test if available and if it could accurately and quickly diagnose influenza, COVID-19, and RSV at the same time. Approximately 78% of individuals would take an antiviral medication to help reduce severe influenza or COVID-19 symptoms if prescribed by a health care professional.
Furthermore, only about 26% of individuals reported that they will wear a mask in a health care setting this fall and winter, with Black individuals at 39% and Hispanic individuals at 33% compared with only 19% of White individuals.
US health officials urge vaccination against flu, COVID-19, and RSV this fall and winter. News release. Cision. September 28, 2023. Accessed September 29, 2023. https://prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-health-officials-urge-vaccination-against-flu-covid-19-and-rsv-this-fall-and-winter-301941218.html