(LOUISVILLE, Ky - December 20, 2018) If you haven't gotten a flu shot in the last 12 months, you're in the minority in Kentucky. What's more, you're putting both yourself and those around you at risk for serious flu complications. According to a Kentucky Health Issues Poll report released today, 54 percent of Kentucky adults got a flu vaccine in the past 12 months.
The majority of those who didn't get a vaccine cited one of the common misperceptions about flu or the vaccine as the reason. In fact, flu vaccines do not cause the flu - which is one of those misconceptions - and it's important for both healthy people and those who may be vulnerable to serious flu complications to get vaccinated annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) is an annual telephone poll of Kentucky adults; it is funded jointly by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health. The flu shot report is the first one to be issued for the poll conducted Aug. 26 through Oct. 21, 2018.
"Annual flu shots work," said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. "They keep us from getting the most common strains of flu each season and reduce the risk of complications and even death if we do end up getting sick. Just as important, when the majority of us get our flu shots, we provide a stronger measure of protection for infants and those with compromised immune systems who cannot get the vaccine."
The KHIP report also found that women were more likely than men to report getting a flu shot in the past 12 months, as were adults ages 65 and older. The report did not show major differences in Kentucky adult flu vaccination rates among races, however.
Other reasons respondents cited for not getting a flu shot included access issues, including cost and lack of insurance. The Foundation suggested contacting your local health department for information about free or low-cost immunizations in your region.
The Foundation is working with the Kentucky Medical Association and the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care on a statewide campaign called "Focus on Flu" to prevent another epidemic-level flu season like the one last year. During the 2017-2018 flu season, more than 10,500 Kentuckians were infected and 333 state residents - including five children - died from flu complications. The nationwide vaccination rate last season was just 37 percent; in Kentucky, it was 41 percent. Already this season, two residents have died and flu activity has been reported in 15 of 17 Kentucky regions.
Dr. Brent Wright, president-elect of the Kentucky Medical Association and treasurer of the Foundation's Board of Directors, said, "If you have not received your flu shot this season, please get it now. Make no mistake, the flu is not a cold; it is serious and not something to mess around with. The flu can lead to a lengthy illness, hospitalization, and in some cases death. Please give yourself, your family, and your community a gift by getting a flu shot this season."
"The flu vaccine can be life-saving, especially for children and older adults," said Dr. Mary Ann Barnes, also a Foundation Board member as well as a family medicine doctor in Edgewood. "We recommend getting vaccinated by the end of October each year, but even this late in the year, a flu vaccine can protect kids and pregnant moms from missed school and work days, hospitalizations and the very serious complications that can lead to death."
The KHIP report on flu shots is available here. Additional information about KHIP can be found here.
About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested nearly $28 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Follow the Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and visit our website at www.healthy-ky.org.
Bonnie J. Hackbarth