Less Than Half of Americans Got Their Flu Shots Last Year

Less than half of all Americans ages 6 months and up got their flu shots last year, leaving a majority of people unvaccinated against a potentially serious illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 47 percent of Americans got a flu vaccine during the 2016-2017 flu season, Dr. Tom Price, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said at a news conference today (Sept. 28). If that rate had been 5 percent higher, another 490,000 illnesses and 7,000 hospitalizations could’ve been avoided, according to CDC estimates, Price said. Rates of people getting their flu vaccine, however, have appeared to level off, he added.

Everyone ages 6 months and up needs a flu shot, Price said. [Flu Shot Facts & Side Effects (Updated for 2017-2018)]

Last year’s flu season was “moderate,” with hospitalization rates almost as high as those seen in the 2014-2015 flu season, Dr. Daniel Jernigan, director of the influenza division at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at the press conference. Almost 600,000 people were hospitalized last season due to the flu, he said.

Last season’s vaccine was 42 percent effective, Price said. In general, the effectiveness of the vaccine ranges from 40 to 60 percent. That’s “not perfect,” Price said, but it does mean that a person’s risk of getting sick with the flu and needing to see a doctor are 40 to 60 percent less if they get vaccinated than if they skip the flu shot. “Those are pretty good odds,” he added.

In fact, last year’s flu vaccine prevented an estimated 5.2 million cases of the flu, 2.7 million doctor’s visits due to the flu and 86,000 hospitalizations, Price said.

Up to 166 million doses of the flu vaccine will be available this year, 20 million more than the previous year, Price said. This season, flu shots are recommended, but beyond that, there’s no preference for which type of shot people choose, Price said. There are seven different types of flu…

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