Improve Flu Vaccination Rates by Decreasing Fake-News

Influenza vaccination rates increase when pharmacists, nurses, and doctors voice a positive recommendation
child reading a book on a sofa

A new survey from the University of Michigan suggests parents who decline to get the annual influenza vaccine for their child may be exposed to a limited range of information.

Additionally, this new poll of 1,977 parents found that depending on which information source parents turn to most often, inaccurate health information may influence their flu vaccine decision. 

This C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health found:

  • Parents who said they would not get the flu vaccine for their child reported 7 times as many information sources that made them question the vaccine’s value, or not want the vaccine,
  • Four in 10 parents said they base their decisions about the flu vaccine on what they read and hear,
  • Those parents who do are less likely to have their child vaccinated than parents who follow their healthcare provider's recommendation,
  • Among parents who decided to get a flu vaccine for their child, the most common source of information that made them want the vaccine was their child's healthcare providers, and,
  • 20 percent of parents polled said their child's provider did not make any recommendations about the vaccination.

"Child health providers are a critical source of information to explain the rationale for annual flu vaccination and to address parents' questions about flu vaccine safety and effectiveness," says poll co-director Sarah Clark, in a press release.   

"Without clear guidance from the provider, parents may be left with misinformation, such as the suggestion that flu vaccine causes the flu." 

"Pharmacists and other providers have the responsibility to discuss the best care options with their patients," said Chris Felton, PharmD, Clinical Pharmacist, MTM and Immunization Specialist for Brookshire Grocery Company. 

"In practice, I have found that patients are far more likely to get vaccinated when we simply ask them about their immunization status and discuss it with them rather than depending on marketing and passively offering the service.  Don’t assume that your patients have gotten the flu shot…ask them," Felton said. 

Parents who were unlikely to get the flu vaccine for their child cited family, close friends, and other parents as the most common sources that made them either question the flu vaccine or opt against vaccinating their child. 

And it wasn't just the source of the information.

"There appears to be an echo chamber around the flu vaccine," Clark says. 

"Parents who are not choosing flu vaccination for their child report hearing or reading opinions that question or oppose the vaccine." 

"At the same time, parents who decided their child will get flu vaccine report opinions that largely support vaccination." 

Clark says there are several possible explanations for this echo chamber.

Some parents may seek out specific people and information sources who support their overall position on vaccines, so that what they hear and read is largely in line with their established opinions. 

"It's important to acknowledge that for some parents, child health providers are not the sole influence, or even the primary influence, on decisions about the flu vaccine," Clark says. 

"For these families, we need to explore other mechanisms to convey accurate information and allow parents to hear a more balanced viewpoint." 

Despite the recommendation to get children vaccinated against the flu, the vaccine rate among U.S. children is much lower for flu than for other childhood vaccines. 

In the last flu season between fall 2017 through spring 2018, a record-setting 183 children died from influenza. 

Less than 60 percent of these fatalities had received the flu vaccine, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Moreover, as of October 27, 2018, there have been 3 pediatric deaths reported in the USA for the 2018-2019 influenza season.   

Since it takes about 2 weeks for antibodies to develop that protect people against an influenza virus infection, it is best to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The CDC recommends everyone over 6 months of age get vaccinated each year.   

And, according to new research presented on October 5, 2018, influenza vaccinations occurring in doctor’s offices are becoming less frequent.   

In a new poster study presented at IDWeek of 130,615 patients aged between 18-64 years old, influenza vaccination at clinics, pharmacies, and work locations are increasing. 

For the 2018-19 season, there are various flu vaccines available. 

In the USA, flu vaccinations can be scheduled at community pharmacies using this Vax-Before-Travel app. 

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides the private sector prices for general information.

Flu vaccine discounts can be found here.

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.