Magazine article FDA Consumer

Study: Half of People at High Risk Unaware They Need a Flu Shot

Magazine article FDA Consumer

Study: Half of People at High Risk Unaware They Need a Flu Shot

Article excerpt

Many people at high risk of flu infection mistakenly believe they're in a low-risk group and, as a result, are much less likely to get a flu shot, according to a researcher from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill School of Public Health.

A study, conducted during the flu vaccine shortage of 2004-2005, found that underestimating risk was common, particularly among people younger than 65 years old, says Noel T. Brewer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of health behavior and health education at UNC. Only 26 percent of younger adults at high risk were vaccinated that flu season, despite recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging high-risk groups to get a flu shot.

The results also indicate what messages will encourage those most likely to get the flu to be vaccinated, Brewer says. "We need to be clearer about who is in the high risk groups. If we can frame health messages around easily identifiable risk categories, then others--including family and friends of high risk individuals--can help persuade those at high risk to get their flu shot," says Brewer. "This simple message could very well save lives."

The study, funded by the CDC, appears in the Dec. 1, 2006, issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Brewer notes that the 2004-2005 shortage apparently discouraged about 24 percent of high-risk people from being vaccinated. But the majority of study participants--73 percent--said the shortage did not affect their behavior.

The study, led by Brewer and William K. Hallman, Ph.D., professor of human ecology at Rutgers University, surveyed a random sample of 300 adults in September 2004 and March 2005. The researchers examined the number of people at high risk of getting the virus, as defined by the CDC, and assessed how many got vaccinations. …

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