Almost Half of Adults Polled Say 'No Way!' to Flu Shots

November 18, 2008 ( - A new survey by Consumer Reports found 45% of those polled planned to skip a 2008 flu shot.

A package of stories on the Consumer Reports Web site said flu shot naysayers need to be more aware that obtaining the treatment is convenient, with half of those getting the shot this year doing so somewhere other than their doctor’s office. This included a walk-in clinic (14%) or a pharmacy (7%). Just under a quarter of respondents get their shots at work.

The Web site material said the shot can also be inexpensive.For 65% of respondents, the flu shot was free, in part because Medicare now covers it entirely. For others, 90% paid less than $30.

Reasons other than convenience or cost cited by flu shot skeptics, according to the Web site, include:

  • It’s better to build my own natural immunities (67%).
  • I don’t get sick (45%).
  • I or someone I know has gotten sick from the vaccine (41%).
  • I am worried about the side effects (35%).
  • I’m not part of an at-risk population (29%).

“Sounds like a lot of excuses and misconceptions to avoid a quick and inexpensive, if not free, shot,” said Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, in a written statement. “People need to know that getting a flu vaccination every year is the best way to prevent the flu.”

The survey, which covered 2,011 adults, was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center in October.

The Consumer Reports flu shot package is available here .

Here are the excuses offered by the flu shot skeptics (with the percentage of those choosing it) and responses by the Consumer Reports Web site:

Reality: The body's innate immune response against the flu virus is short-lived, usually just a few months. Moreover, the virus that causes the flu often changes from year to year. So any protection your body develops during one flu season is usually gone by the next.

Reality: Just because you haven't had the flu in the past doesn't mean you won't get it this year.

Reality: The nasal-spay version of the vaccine FluMist is made from a weakened virus, so you can develop at least mild symptoms from it.

Side effects are uncommon and usually mild, including soreness or redness at the injection site, aches, and mild fever. A small number of people do have a more serious allergic reaction to the shot.

Reality: The flu shot is especially important for certain groups of people-including pregnant women, those over age 50, and anyone with weakened immunity or chronic illness. But if you've been in a movie theater, or a crowded elevator, or a shopping mall, you're at risk too.

Reality: For the antiviral drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) to work, you have to start taking them within two days of the onset of symptoms. Even then, the drugs typically shorten the duration by only a day or so.

Reality. Many people find that lying down for their shots helps them relax. And rising up slowly afterward helps prevent fainting, a problem that occurs in a small percentage of people who get the shot.

Reality: The shot generally prevents the flu in about 60% of healthy people in their 60s, though that varies depending on how well the vaccine matches the virus that actually emerges. And it has been shown to reduce hospitalizations from pneumonia or other complications by 27% to 70%, and deaths by up to 80%.

Reality: You don't have to.

Reality: Nearly two-thirds of the people in our survey had no out-of-pocket expenses, and 90 % of those who did had to pay less than $30.

Reality: It usually takes just a few minutes, especially if you get it done at work, a pharmacy, or a health fair.