One of the major concerns about getting a flu vaccine is its safety for women during pregnancy.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have encouraged Americans to get a flu shot, however, fewer than half of people in a nationwide survey reported getting the seasonal immunization (49%), according to data from the Annenberg Science Knowledge (ASK) survey for the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania. This was not statistically significant compared to findings from the 2021 and 2022 surveys.
“[And] although the CDC indicated that seasonal flu activity is now low nationally, the fact that the level of reported flu vaccination in our panel was roughly the same in January of this year as a year before is concerning,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, in a recent press release.
In January 2023, a sample of 1600 nationally diverse US adults were asked to fill out the ASK survey so investigators could gain a general understanding about the areas of concern and uncertainty about flu shots (flu, COVID-19, etc.), current flu shot status, attitudes towards vaccination and mandates, and getting back to normal.
The responses highlight that 49% of Americans were uncertain about whether the flu shot is safe during pregnancy—which it is—whether the flu shot gives you the flu (46%) and whether antibiotics treat the flu (45%), both of which are false, the study noted.
Among people vaccinated against the flu for the 2022 and 2023 season, 69% were vaccinated because they are every year, 64% got it to protect against flu, and 8% wanted protection from COVID-19.
“Because this has been a more severe flu season than the one a year ago, we expected an increase in the reported vaccination rate,” Jamieson said in the press release.
Additionally, respondents were asked about when they expected a return to “your normal, pre-COVID-19 life,” and more than 50% said that they already have. Although at least 22% of Americans say it will “never” return to normal, this is not exponentially different from 2022 findings.
ASK findings also showed that more than half of people support the COVID-19 vaccine in the military and public school settings. At least 53% of respondents said the Army should mandate vaccination (excluding medical/religious reasons) and 45% want public schools to require COVID-19 vaccination, excluding medical/religious reasons.
Some participants expressed concerns about their family contracting COVID-19, flu, or respiratory syntactical virus (36%, 35%, and 33% respectively). Although there are reports of vaccine-related myocarditis occurring, many Americans are worried that COVID-19 would be the cause of myocarditis.
Finally, many participants were able to recognize false claims made about the COVID-19 and flu vaccines. False claims are that seasonal flu shots increase a person’s risk of contracting COVID-19; there is no value in getting a flu shot if you haven’t gotten it by November; cold weather causes the flu; and the flu cannot be treated.
University of Pennsylvania. Flu vaccination rate holds steady but misinformation about flu and Covid-19 persists. February 17, 2023. Accessed February 17, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/980052