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41 Percent of Americans Don't Plan to Get the Flu Shot, Despite Last Year's Deadly Flu Season

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Photo: Lesterman / Shutterstock

Flu season is in full swing, but health officials have been warning Americans for weeks to take precautions and get vaccinated. Since October 1, 91 people have died from influenza across the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet a recent poll suggests that more than 41 percent of Americans still don't plan to get vaccinated this year.

The new survey from NORC at the University of Chicago included 1,202 interviews with a nationally representative sample of Americans in all 50 states. Luckily, the survey also found that (as of mid-November) 43 percent of adults reported that they had already gotten their flu vaccination—and another 14 percent say they intend to get a vaccination this season. (FYI, the CDC recommends getting your flu shot by the end of October, but it's technically never too late to get your flu shot.) 

So, what gives for the 41 percent who plan to skip it? Well, the survey found that people planned to forgo the vaccine this year for a few main reasons. For starters, the survey found they are concerned about the side effects, but also that some doubt its effectiveness, or felt that it was unnecessary since they never get the flu. (Related: Can a Healthy Person Die from the Flu?)

Health experts, however, continue to argue that the side effects from flu shots are mild and that they definitely don't cause the flu. "Unfortunately, many people are still not getting flu shots due to broader misconceptions about the value of receiving a flu shot and concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines," Caitlin Oppenheimer, senior vice president of Public Health Research at NORC at the University of Chicago, said in a statement

"Flu vaccination helps prevent people from getting sick with the flu and reduces the severity of illness for those who do get sick," added Caroline Pearson, a senior fellow at NORC. "Widespread vaccination also helps create 'herd immunity' that protects vulnerable groups who are prevented from getting vaccinated." (The only groups that CDC explicitly recommends *not* get the shot are children under 6 months old or people with life-threatening allergies to an ingredient in the vaccine—if you have (or think you could have) one of these health conditions you can talk to your doc.) 

To further Pearson's point, the CDC has reported that those who got flu shots over the past two years have dropped their chances of getting the virus this year by 40 percent. (Get up to date on everything you need to know about the CDC's guidelines for the 2018–2019 flu season here.) 

We get it: Getting your flu shot can seem like a pain. But as last season's insane death toll proves (reminder: more than 80,000 people died) the flu should be taken seriously—and it's expected to be as deadly, if not more fatal than last year, according to the CDC. Oh, and once you get that shot (because we know you're headed there today, right??) check out these four other ways you can protect yourself from the flu this year.

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