CVS study: Flu shot myths put many people at risk

35% believed vaccine can give people the flu

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Consumers may be concerned about picking up germs, but flu shot misconceptions are standing in the way of many consumers doing all they can to protect themselves and their loved ones, according to a recent CVS/pharmacy survey.

"It's always important to wash your hands frequently with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze, and avoid contact with those who are sick. But the No. 1 thing you can do to prevent the flu is get a flu shot," stated Papatya Tankut, VP pharmacy professional services for CVS/pharmacy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone ages 6 months or older should get a flu shot, including those who were vaccinated last flu season. Despite this recommendation, 42% of respondents are not planning on getting a flu shot this year.

Everyday preventive actions, such as hand-washing, can stop the spread of germs, yet are not always practiced. Although nearly all respondents (99%) said they almost always wash their hands after using a restroom, only 70% do so after blowing their nose. Seventy-six percent of respondents have gone to work with cold- or flu-like symptoms.

Misinformation about flu shots may contribute to the number of people who do not get vaccinated. The CVS/pharmacy survey revealed the following misconceptions:

  • Half of respondents (49%) thought flu shots are mainly for children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions, despite the CDC's recommendation that everyone ages 6 months and older should get an annual flu shot;

  • 35% believed flu shots can give people the flu, which is not true because the viruses used in the flu shot are inactivated;

  • 25% did not think flu shots work very well, even though the flu shot provides you with the best possible protection from catching the flu;

  • 22% thought flu shots can protect people for up to two years, but a flu shot is needed annually because the immunity provided by the vaccine declines over the course of the season; and

  • 14% thought flu shots are dangerous, but the fact is that the federal government ensures the safety of vaccines through FDA oversight of rigorous prelicensure trials and post-licensure monitoring by the CDC and the FDA.

"Myths about the flu shot are prevalent, causing people to go unprotected each year and putting themselves and their families at risk," added Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer for CVS Caremark. "Vaccination is the first line of defense against the flu, and we encourage individuals to protect themselves with a seasonal flu shot."

African-American adults are more likely to have misconceptions about flu shots and are somewhat less likely than others to get a flu shot, yet are among the most concerned about picking up germs, according to the survey. Hispanic adults are more likely than others to do all the right things to avoid getting and transmitting the flu, and are among the most likely to plan to get a flu shot this year.

The findings were from a phone survey using random-digit dial from Aug. 16 to 25, among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,498 adults, ages 18 years and older. The sample consisted of a national sample of 500 adults, an additional sample of 460 African-American adults (total of 498) and an additional sample of 450 Hispanic adults (500 total). KRC Research of Washington, D.C., conducted the fieldwork on behalf of CVS Caremark.

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