Don’t Let Flu Vaccine Misconceptions Bring You Down

Misconceptions about the risk and benefits of the seasonal flu vaccine—the leading reason that patients decline shots—increased in 2018 to the highest level in three years, according to new data on US primary care physician (PCPs) perceptions about the flu vaccine from life sciences market intelligence platform InCrowd.

“On this, the 100th anniversary of the 1918 flu pandemic when an estimated 50 million people died in the decades before a flu vaccine became available, InCrowd’s results suggest we need to keep up the public education campaign on the benefits of the flu vaccine lest we experience another global health crisis,” said Diane Hayes, Ph.D., epidemiologist and co-founder of InCrowd who directed the microsurvey.

While the majority of patients do consent to a flu shot—an estimated 79% of patients in 2018—51% of PCPs responding this year report patient misconceptions around the risks and benefits of flu shots, up from 44% in 2017, and 2016.

“Most people need reassurance that the flu shot will not cause them to get the flu,” said a PCP from Tennessee. The second largest reason for patients declining a flu shot was that they don’t get sick or never get the flu, at 32% this year. While anti-vaccination sentiment was offered as a reason, only 6% noted it in 2018.

The PCP perception microsurvey also found that:

  • Slightly more patients (61%), will receive their flu shot in their doctor’s offices, up from 57% in 2017, and 55% in 2016.
  • Eighteen percent of patients will be vaccinated at a pharmacy or grocery store.
  • Thirty-seven percent of PCPs remain concerned that pharmacy- or grocery store-administered flu shots are not recorded on the patient’s medical record, although several verbatim remarks noted that the respondent’s state mandates a universal vaccination record.
  • A companion microsurvey of pharmacists who administer flu vaccinations suggests physician concerns about medical records noting their patients’ flu shots may be well-founded.
  • Forty-two percent of pharmacists who administer flu shots said their clinic does not provide a medical record of the shot directly to the PCP—while 42% say their clinic automates the fax to the patient’s PCP as a record of a flu shot, and 16% connect directly to the medical record.
  • Although 43% of PCPs in 2018 report that pharmacy or grocery store flu shot availability provides ease of access for their patients, 13% find that these clinics offer no major advantage—a jump from just 2% in 2017 (2%), and 7% in 2016.
  • Nine out of 10 respondents report that their clinics require all staff to receive a yearly flu shot. Clinics that do not explicitly require vaccination often still strongly encourage it, with potential negative consequences for non-adherence, including firing for failing to provide a reason for an exemption, according to one respondent.

The 5-minute microsurvey of physician perceptions on the flu vaccine included data from 201 PCPs who administer a flu vaccine and responded between October 23 -25, 2018. The companion microsurvey of pharmacists who administer flu vaccine included 50 pharmacists who responded on November 16, 2018.

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