January 23, 2020

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recently surveyed U.S. adults to gauge their knowledge of the flu, and the results are not promising: 82% of adults got at least one question wrong, and 28% got them all wrong.

Infographic: How to avoid the flu when you fly

Survey details

For the survey, AAFP surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults ages 25-73 about the flu. Respondents were asked whether they had gotten a flu shot, and if they hadn't, whether they planned to get one. The survey also asked respondents whether several statements about the flu were true or false.

The survey found that more than half of Americans haven't received a flu shot this flu season and almost one-third do not plan to get one. Among those surveyed, millennials were the least likely to get a flu shot, with 55% reporting they have yet to get vaccinated this season and 33% reporting they don't plan to.

5 questions about the flu

In addition, the survey asked respondents to state which of the following statements, if any, were true. The statements were:

  1. New flu vaccines are created each year to guard against most likely strains;
  2. It takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to provide full protection;
  3. The flu vaccine may cause the flu;
  4. No sign of flu symptoms means you're not contagious; and
  5. Healthy people don't need the flu vaccine.

Respondents could also say none of the above were true.

Of the adults surveyed:

  • 82% gave at least one incorrect answer;
  • 44% gave at least two incorrect answers; and
  • 28% didn't get a single answer correct.

Meanwhile, just 18% had all correct answers.

Millennials were the most likely group to get a wrong answer, with 86% of millennial respondents getting at least one wrong answer and 31% getting all of the answers wrong.

The survey also found that 61% of millennials familiar with the anti-vaccination movement said they agree with some anti-vaccination beliefs, which is higher than the national rate of 52% among all adults and higher than the rate of baby boomers at 42%.

However, while millennials are the "least informed about flu facts," AAPF in a release said "socially conscious millennials are the most likely to believe in the efficacy of the flu shot." According to AAFP, 76% of millennials said the flu shot is effective and 83% said the flu shot helps protect people around them.

Comments

Alexa Mieses, a practicing family physician in North Carolina, said it's "very alarming to see how people are being influenced by the anti-vax movement." She added that providers "need to make sure that these communities are educated about the importance of vaccines and that they understand the source of the rhetoric they're hearing. It's clear they are being influenced by myths and misinformation, and it's critical that the facts reach them too" (AAFP release, 1/16; Bean, Becker's Clinical Leadership & Infection Control, 1/16).

Next: How to avoid the flu when you fly

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