* Only a third of U.S. adults have had shot - survey
* Misperceptions about shots cited as key reason
By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO, Dec 9 Americans are getting seasonal
flu shots at about the same rate as last year despite
heightened awareness of the risks of influenza inspired by the
swine flu pandemic, a survey released on Wednesday showed.
As of the middle of November, about 32 percent of all U.S.
adults and 37 percent of adults who are recommended to get a
flu shot against seasonal flu had gotten one.
"It does not appear that the increased public discussion of
the role of influenza vaccines has had a significantly impact
on the public's behavior," said Katherine Harris, a senior
economist at RAND, a nonprofit research group that led the
"Most of the results from our latest survey look much like
those from last year," she said in a statement.
Harris said concerns over the swine flu pandemic did drive
more adults to get seasonal flu vaccines earlier this year,
with about three times as many adults getting a seasonal flu
shot in September compared with the same time last year.
But overall vaccine rates through mid-November were
comparable with rates during the same period last year,
suggesting that vaccination rates have tapered off.
This may have been due in part to a shortage of seasonal
flu vaccines that occurred as companies struggled to meet
government commitments to deliver H1N1 vaccines.
But the study also suggests misperceptions about flu
vaccine are common, Harris said.
Overall, 60 percent of people who do not plan to get a flu
shot said they were worried they would become sick, worried
about vaccine side-effects or thought they did not need a flu
Harris said the study did not suggest that people were
skipping their seasonal flu shot because they had already
gotten or planned to get an H1N1 flu shot.
FLU SEASON PICKING UP
Seasonal flu shots protect against flu viruses circulating
each year. Seasonal flu kills about 36,000 people in the United
States each year and puts 200,000 in the hospital, typically
hitting the elderly and those with underlying health conditions
While swine flu has begun to ease in the United States, flu
season is just picking up, Dr. William Schaffner, of Vanderbilt
University and president-elect of the National Foundation for
Infectious Diseases, told reporters at a media briefing.
Schaffner stressed that the seasonal flu shots are safe.
"You cannot get influenza from the influenza vaccine," he
The findings come from a nationally representative survey
of more than 5,000 adults that asked about their vaccination
status and related issues through mid-November. The survey was
paid for by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L), which supplies flu vaccine
to the U.S. market.
Healthcare workers were the group most likely to have been
vaccinated by mid-November, with about half saying they had
been vaccinated by then, according to the survey. But 40
percent of healthcare workers reported they had no intention of
getting a seasonal flu shot.
"This is despite the risk that being unvaccinated poses to
healthcare workers' patients and to healthcare workers
themselves," Harris said at the briefing.
Caregivers and others who have close contact with people
for whom flu poses a serious health risk were least likely to
be vaccinated overall, with just over a third reporting they
were vaccinated by mid-November.
The survey also found that white adults were more likely to
be vaccinated than other racial groups, and Hispanic adults
were the least likely to have received a seasonal flu vaccine.
(Editing by Xavier Briand)