Flu Vaccine Rates Lower Than Desired

Influenza vaccine coverage increasing but still below Healthy People 2020 goals says new CDC report

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) For years, health officials have been aiming to increase rates of flu vaccination across the US each flu season. While new data shows that more and more people seem to be getting vaccinated, the rates of the increases are slower than desired.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined vaccination data for the 2007-2008 through 2011-2012 influenza seasons.

Though rates increased among adults and children alike during those years, they were still well below the national goals set for the year 2020.

"Discuss vaccinations with your doctor."

According the study authors, led by Peng-jun Lu, MD, PhD, of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, improvements are still needed for several different groups of people in order to reach national influenza vaccination goals set for the year 2020.

There is no single source for all the data needed on flu vaccination coverage, so the researchers relied on a variety of sources and systems to explore the 2007-2008 through 2011-2012 flu seasons. Sources included the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System and internet surveys of healthcare personnel and pregnant women.

Dr. Lu and colleagues found that the national flu vaccine coverage of children between the ages of 6 months to 17 years increased from 31.1 percent during the 2007-2008 season to 56.7 percent during the 2011-2012 season.

For adults aged 18 or older, national flu vaccination coverage increased from 33.0 percent during the 2007-2008 season to 38.3 percent during the 2011-2012 season.

An internet survey estimated that 66.9 percent of healthcare personnel had been vaccinated during the 2011-2012 season, while the NHIS placed the estimation at 62.4 percent.

The study authors noted that 2011-2012 vaccination coverage rates for these groups, though generally higher than the 2007-2008 rates, were still well below the 2020 goals of 70 percent for children between the ages of 6 months to 17 years, 70 percent for adults aged 18 or older and 90 percent for healthcare professionals.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that pregnant women get the vaccination, and the study authors noted that these women and their infants have a higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu. An internet survey estimated that 47.0 percent of pregnant women received the flu vaccine during 2011-2012, while the BRFSS placed the estimation at 43.0 percent.

Dr. Lu and colleagues reported that 86.8 percent of adults rated the flu vaccine as either very or somewhat effective, and 46.5 percent of adults believed that if not vaccinated, their risk for becoming ill with the flu was either high or somewhat high. Most adults reported receiving the vaccine in a doctor's office, and pharmacies were the second most common vaccination location.

"Continued efforts are needed to encourage health-care providers to offer influenza vaccination and to promote public health education efforts among various populations to improve vaccination coverage," concluded Dr. Lu and colleagues. 

"Ongoing surveillance to obtain coverage estimates and information regarding other issues related to influenza vaccination (e.g., knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs) is needed to guide program and policy improvements to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with influenza by increasing vaccination rates," they wrote.

This study was published October 25 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. No conflicts of interest were reported. 

Review Date: 
October 25, 2013
Last Updated:
October 25, 2013