Who wants the flu this year? No one? That’s what we thought. So how come lots of people — especially those most at risk for getting sick — aren’t going in for flu shots? Health experts aren’t sure, they just know that flu shots are somewhat of a hard sell lately. And those who most need one, pregnant women and health care workers, aren’t showing up to get vaccinated as much as they should.
New numbers on immunizations in this country show that fewer than half of pregnant women got vaccinated in 2011, and only two-thirds of health care workers opted for the flu shot, reports NBC News.
Public health officials are the biggest pushers of the shots, but combined with the fact that it’s hard in some places to get the vaccine and mild flu seasons convincing people they’ll be fine without it is producing low numbers.
Last year around 128 million people, roughly 42% of the population, was immunized against influenza. It’s important to get a flu shot every year because of how wily the viruses are. They go around mutating and changing up their game in order to sneak past vaccines from years past and get you sick, so vaccinations are updated every year.
Babies are pretty good at getting vaccinated, at a rate of almost 75%. They also go to see pediatricians a lot more than many adults make trips to the doctor, which could account for that high level. But when it comes to 18- to 49-year-olds, only 29% got the shot last year. A big worry is pregnant women, who are likely to catch the flu because their immune systems are suppressed during pregnancy — and have bad associated effects for the baby.
“Influenza is five times more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than women who are not pregnant,” a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology tells NBC.
Worrisome, then that a CDC survey shows only 47% of women were vaccinated against the flu last year. When a doctor told the women to get a shot and also provided it, 74% were vaccinated. If a doctor stayed mum, only 11% received the flu shot. Many pregnant women were apparently afraid the vaccine would instead infect them and put them at risk.
“Pregnant women worry about everything,” said the doctor. “We spend a lot of time in this country talking about you can’t eat this, you can’t eat that. It takes us a little while to get the message out about how efficacious (the vaccine) is. We are preventing a very severe disease potentially and we are protecting your baby.”
Even though the flu seasons haven’t been particularly awful in the last few years, the CDC warns that every year people die from various strains going around. It’s all unpredictable — meaning it’s better to be safe than sorry and you’d better get to the doctor lickety split.