A new study by the Immunisation Coalition has shown that less than half of Australian adults plan to get a flu shot this year… and convenience is a factor
The 2018 Immunisation Coalition Survey found that only 44% of Australian adults intend to be vaccinated against influenza this year, and that woman aged 55-plus are the most likely to do so, with 74% planning to be vaccinated.
The figure is similar to the Pharmacy Guild’s recent findings on flu vaccination intention; in that survey, it would found that 45% of Australian adults planned to get the jab.
The reasoning, according to the Immunisation Coalition, is varied: 35% of respondents said they would get this year’s vaccine if they knew it had been updated to better match the mutated virus, while 43% of the adult population do not believe the flu shot works.
Another 24% said they don’t think it’s important, while 18% said they didn’t believe in “unnecessary” vaccines.
Associate Professor Julie Leask from the University of Sydney listed a number of reasons why people don’t get vaccinated.
- “People are often just not aware that they are recommended to have the flu vaccine and it is free for them. They just don’t know it, which is why health care provider recommendation is so important in simply raising awareness.”
- The myths and misconceptions around flu vaccination also pose a significant barrier, she says. “Some people believe that influenza is a mild disease or ‘I’m not at risk’. Yes, it can be mild in some people but of course we don’t want our mild illness to be passed on to a loved one and make them very sick.” She pointed out that over 3,000 to 3,500 people who die from influenza in Australia each year.
- Concern about the vaccine’s safety and side-effects are also a problem. Ms Leask said the vaccines on offer today have a “very good safety profile,” citing the use of the Ausvaxsafety monitoring program run by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.
- Some people still believe they can get influenza from the vaccine. “This is not true. It’s not capable of giving you influenza in the formulations that are given in Australia.
- However people are influenced by what others do and say, so that they take notice when members of their social network claim, for instance, that they got a bad case of the flu following the vaccine.
- “Then there’s the practical factor. Some people are motivated, but they’re struggling to access the vaccine, getting to the appointments, overcoming the logistics, and of course that’s particularly an issue if you don’t receive it for free under the national or state program.”
- “Some people will have difficulty in paying for the vaccine if they’re in that situation where it’s not free for them, and sometimes people will have to pay for their health care provider appointment, depending on whether the GP bulk bills or not.”
- Sometimes, health care providers will fail to recommend people have the vaccine.
- “And sometimes health care providers recommend not having it, despite that person being in the recommended groups. This is a very important issue that we need to address.”
A/Prof Leask sums up the barriers to flu vaccination as the “three Cs”:
- Complacency (people don’t think flu is that serious);
- Confidence (people aren’t confident enough in the vaccine); and
- Convenience (the vaccine is not easy to get or they weren’t aware of the need to have it).
“If we can address all of those three factors, we can really start to improve our often woeful flu vaccination rates in the different age groups.”
She also stressed the importance of health professionals being vaccinated themselves.
“Health care workers need to get vaccinated, because they’re not just protecting themselves, they’re protecting their patients and they can make a huge contribution there.”