Poll finds 40% of Americans may refuse flu shot this year

flu shot
Photo credit Getty Images

As the delta variant slowly releases its grip on parts of the country where COVID vaccination rates are the lowest, a new fear is arising among health care providers: Will people refuse to get the flu shot, too?

A new poll shows that 40% of Americans already have their answer, deciding either that they'll pass or make no effort to get it.

Four in 10 Americans aren't planning on getting a flu shot this year according to a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults commissioned by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. The survey found that "while more than 60% of Americans agreed the flu shot was the best way to prevent flu deaths and hospitalizations, 44% said they were unsure about or not planning to get a flu vaccine this year."

But in a difference from COVID vaccine hesitancy, this survey found that flu shot reluctance is less about political divide and more about distrust in the product itself.

The study found that top reasons cited for not getting the flu shot are:
* 34 percent do not think flu vaccines work very well.
* 32 percent said that they never get the flu.
* 29 percent are concerned about potential side effects from the vaccine.
* 22 percent are concerned about getting flu from the vaccine.
* 17 percent are concerned about potential exposure to COVID-19 if they go out to get vaccinated.

The number of people who believe the shot doesn't work increased dramatically from the 2019 survey: 51% cited that reason this year compared to 34% then.

And the number of people who plan to get the shot varies among races. Most White adults (59 percent) and Hispanic adults (65 percent) plan to get vaccinated against flu for the 2020-2021 season, but more than half of Black adults (62 percent) are not sure or do not plan to get vaccinated

And the result is that nearly one in four -- or 22% percent -- of folks overall who are at higher risk than others for flu-related complications said they were not planning to get vaccinated.

Experts said adding to the hesitancy could be the much-ballyhooed 'twindemic' of 2020 with spiking flu cases alongside COVID that never materialized. Last year brought a historically mild flu season because people wore masks in public spaces, offices were closed, theaters and schools and bars and restaurants -- anywhere where human beings mingle -- had strict social distancing and masking rules.

But that's not the case this year, which presumably means the flu may return.