THURSDAY, Sept. 29, 2016 (HealthDay News) — The flu-vaccination rate sagged in the United States last season, causing concern among public health officials that more Americans might wave off a flu shot this year.
Influenza vaccination coverage declined 1.5 percent across the entire U.S. population during the 2015-2016 flu season, with only 46 percent of Americans receiving the annual vaccine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.
“Flu is serious. Flu is unpredictable. Flu often gets not enough respect,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden warned at a morning news conference. “If we could increase vaccination coverage in this country by just 5 percent, that would prevent about 800,000 illnesses and nearly 10,000 hospitalizations.”
Leading by example, Frieden received his own flu vaccination during the media briefing, which was hosted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).
The CDC recommends that everyone aged 6 months or older receive an annual flu shot.
“We also say get it by the end of October, and don’t delay,” Frieden added. “A vaccination deferred is often a vaccination forgotten. And we want to ensure as many people as possible get the flu vaccine.”
Adults 50 and older experienced the greatest decreases in vaccination coverage last flu season, the CDC numbers revealed.
There was a 3.4 percentage point decrease in flu vaccinations among people 50 to 64 years old, with less than 44 percent getting a flu shot. A similar decrease of 3.3 percentage points occurred among people 65 and older, with 63 percent receiving the protection.
The decline in influenza vaccine coverage for older adults is troubling because seniors are disproportionately affected by the flu, said Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the NFID. He is also a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.