THURSDAY, Dec. 9, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Public health experts have long recommended getting a seasonal flu shot, but a new study suggests there's hesitancy about that vaccine, too. Physicians and pharmacists can play a key role in flu shot uptake, the research shows.
Only about 44% of people who had a health care provider got their flu shots, the study found, but it was even worse among those who didn't have a doctor: Only one in five of those folks got flu shots.
"This research reminds us that under-vaccination and vaccine hesitancy are not limited to COVID-19," said researcher Sinmileoluwa Okegbile, a Pharm.D. candidate at Midwestern University in Arizona. "Low vaccination rates for the flu persist among those living in the United States even though vaccines can prevent severe illnesses, hospitalization and death. Our study suggests a need for a fresh approach to counteract hesitancy."
In the study, Okegbile's team analyzed more than 2.5 million health records of adults aged 18 and older from the 2015, 2017, and 2019 databases of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study found flu vaccination was lower among Hispanics (31%) and Black people (32%), compared to white individuals (41%).
Vaccination rates were higher among older adults, with nearly 60% of those over age 65 vaccinated compared to less than one-third of those aged 18 to 25. They were especially high among those with four or more obesity-related conditions (82%).
Pharmacists might step in to help raise vaccination rates and "develop targeted services to support those less likely to be vaccinated," Okegbile said. He spoke in a news release from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).
"Pharmacists are accessible to most people, even those without a consistent relationship with another health care provider, and they have a unique opportunity to initiate conversations about vaccines and then order and administer the vaccine," added said Anna Legreid Dopp, ASHP's senior director of clinical guidelines and quality improvement.
"Having open and respectful conversations around vaccines, including both COVID-19 and influenza, while easing access for patients, is the best way to increase vaccination rates," she said.
The findings were presented Tuesday at an ASHP virtual meeting.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on flu shots.
SOURCE: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, news release, Dec. 7, 2021