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Rates of Seasonal Flu Vaccination Rise this Year

April 29, 2010

Highest Boost in Rates among Children

The rates of vaccination for seasonal flu may have boosted across the country this year, possibly due to a fear of infection from H1N1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today released the results of surveys on seasonal influenza vaccination coverage nationwide between August 2009 and January 2010.

While typically vaccination rates for all ages range around 30 percent, with the highest rate being 33 percent for the 2008–2009 flu season, this year’s rate for all ages was 40 percent. The highest increase was among children, possibly due to the increase in school-based influenza vaccination clinics this year in response to the H1N1 pandemic. The H1N1 vaccine this year did not protect against seasonal influenza but both doses were offered at some vaccination clinics. There were also many more Americans born from 1960 to 1943—the baby boomers—who rolled up their sleeves or received intranasal seasonal flu vaccine.

Seniors are typically the ones to seek out immunization against seasonal influenza. This year, a national average of 68 percent were immunized—with rates as high as 78 percent in Connecticut and 82 percent in Alaska.

Young People Remain Least Likely to Be Vaccinated

For the most part the rates of seasonal flu vaccination have been steadily climbing since 1989. According to data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), influenza vaccination rates for adults aged 18 to 49 were just above three percent in 1989. They have since risen steadily to 20 percent in 2008 and close to 32 percent this year.

Still, that age group remains the least likely to get the seasonal flu vaccine. This year, many of the public service announcements and other promotions urging vaccination against H1N1 were directed toward youth and young adults. On average, this age group was also more severely impacted by the pandemic than older adults.

Older adults may have been more immune to this year’s H1N1 virus due to exposure to the illness in 1918 or 1957. New findings suggest that those who were immunized against the 1957 strain of H1N1 may have been protected against this year’s strain. Based on a Federal Drug Administration Advisory Committee recommendation, next year’s seasonal flu vaccine will contain the H1N1 strain along with two other influenza strains. Next year will the first year that the seasonal flu vaccine will be recommended to all people aged six months and older.

Survey Methods

The CDC MMWR Report used data collected through the NHIS and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). In place since 1957, the NHIS relies on personal household interviews collected by the U.S. Census Bureau to assess health status and healthcare access nationwide. The BRFSS is a phone interview survey that has been conducted since 1984 and determines health conditions and risk behaviors.

Related Links

April 29, 2010
BusinessWeek: Record Number of Americans Got Flu Shots, CDC Says

April 27, 2010
LA Times: If You Wonder What It Was Like to Live through the 1918 Flu Pandemic

March 3, 2010
American Academy of Family Physicians: ACIP Makes Universal Flu Vaccination Recommendation


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