Most Americans skip the annual flu shot, with the number of dispensed vaccines barely changed in the past decade, despite government removal of cost and access obstacles.
“We are kind of spinning our wheels trying to reach a larger portion of the population,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
Public health officials recommend that nearly all people get the flu shot. The 2010 Affordable Care Act required all insurers to waive out-of-pocket costs for plan members for the vaccinations and, in the past few years, all states allowed pharmacists to administer the shots.
The flat immunization rates worry public health officials who say the vaccine is the best weapon to prevent the flu, which caused as many as 61,000 deaths during the last flu season.
“The number of Americans being vaccinated is not optimal,” Dr. Daniel Jernigan, director of the influenza division at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the House Science, Space & Technology Committee on Wednesday.
About 45% of adults received the flu shot last year, up from about 41% in 2010, according to CDC data. Among people 65 and older, who are most at risk for complication of the flu, 68% were inoculated last year, up from 67% in 2010.
Vaccination rates, however, have risen for children – increasing to 73% last year from 64% in 2011.
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