CDC: Flu Vaccine Coverage Remains Low This Year

Washington, D.C.–As of early November, only about 2 out of 5 people in the United States reported having gotten this season’s flu vaccine, yet flu vaccine offered substantial benefit last season by preventing an estimated 5 million flu illnesses and 71,000 flu hospitalizations.

The benefits of flu vaccination (Credit: CDC)
The benefits of flu vaccination (Credit: CDC)

“We are glad to see that people are making the decision to protect themselves and their families from flu, but coverage is still low and we urge people to get vaccinated if they haven’t yet,” said Nancy Messonnier, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “We have a tool that is proven to prevent flu illness and hospitalization but millions of people are not taking advantage of it. Too many people are unprotected.”

Flu vaccine coverage estimates based on survey data collected through early November 2016 show vaccination levels similar to this time last season. Forty percent of people overall reported having received a flu vaccine, including 37 percent of children ages 6 months to 17 years and 41 percent of adults ages 18 years and older.

Although flu vaccination estimates among adults and children are similar to early estimates from last season for all age groups, CDC is looking carefully at vaccination rates for children and for adults ages 50 years and older.

“We are urging parents to make sure their children get a flu shot this season, as the nasal-spray vaccine is not recommended for the 2016-2017 flu season. An annual flu vaccine is very important protection for children,” said Joe Bresee, M.D., a pediatrician and chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of CDC’s Influenza Division.

Concern about vaccination among older adults is prompted by detection of a three percentage point decrease in vaccine coverage among people 50 years and older in final vaccine coverage estimates for 2015-16 compared to 2014-15. “It’s too soon to say whether vaccination in people 50 and older will rebound this season. We certainly hope it will,” Messonnier said. “About a third of people ages 50 to 64 have medical conditions that put them at high risk of serious flu complications; and we know that declining immune function puts people 65 and older at high risk. While flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, it’s especially important that people in high-risk groups get vaccinated.”