NEW YORK Only 12% of adults think they had the flu this past winter, fewer than the 15% to 21% who thought they had the flu in other winters since 2004, Harris Interactive reported Friday.
There is no evidence, however, that flu shots should get the credit for the decline in the number of people with the flu, though conversely, Harris Interactive also cautioned in its release there is no evidence that flu shots didn’t contribute on some level.
“This is a complicated subject and there are several reasons for caution in interpreting these findings - for example, it would be erroneous to conclude that the flu vaccines used last winter had no effect,” the company stated, identifying the fact that self-diagnosis and self-reporting of the flu is unreliable and the fact that people most likely to get the flu may also be most likely to get the flu shot, thereby not contracting the flu.
The 39% of adults who had flu shots is almost the same as those who had them in two previous winters (40% in 2008-2009, and 36% in 2007-2008), Harris stated, despite the raised awareness associated with H1N1. Furthermore, for the third year running, the proportion of adults who believe they got the flu was the same (12%) among those who did and did not get flu shot, according to the Harris poll of 2,755 U.S. adults, surveyed online between April 12 and 19 by Harris Interactive.
Men and women were equally likely to have had flu shots (38% for men, 39% for women) and equally likely to believe they had the flu (12% for both men and women).
People under age 40 years were more likely than people over age 40 to report having had the flu.
Most (66%) of those who report having had the flu this winter believe they had a "regular flu." Only 13% believe they had the H1N1 flu virus. More than a fifth (22%) were not sure. This public perception runs contrary to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports throughout the past season, which identified the H1N1 virus as the overwhelmingly predominant virus throughout the season.
The proportion of adults who think they will have a flu shot next winter is the same as those who had one this last winter (39%), and they are mostly the same people. Only 3% of those who had a flu shot say they will not get one for this coming winter.