Slight uptick in flu vaccination numbers

This article was originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 1, 2014.

The beginning of fall is also the beginning of flu shot season, and if this year is anything like last, about half of all Americans will be vaccinated.

Inoculation rates are highest for young children and seniors, but health officials worry that working-age adults are underestimating their own flu risks.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced the flu vaccination rate for the 2013-14 flu season, and it was up slightly over the previous year. More than half of children and adults age 65 or older received some form of flu vaccine, and 52 percent of pregnant women did as well, a statistic that pleased experts because it represented a jump from less than 15 percent just five years ago.

Adults age 18-64, however, had the lowest flu vaccination rate, with about two-thirds skipping the flu shot last year. CDC officials said people in this age group often think they’re not at high risk for flu, but last year, they comprised nearly 60 percent of all flu-related hospitalizations.

Each year, according to the CDC, between 5 and 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu, which results in more than 30million doctor visits and 200,000 hospitalizations. Here’s a breakdown of the most — and least — vaccinated groups.

46.2%

The percentage of the U.S. population age 6 months and older who received flu vaccines in the 2013-14 flu season year. That’s up a little more than 1 percent from the previous year.

70.4%

The percentage of children younger than 5 who were vaccinated, but only 55.3 percent of kids ages 5 to 17 were.

33.9%

The percentage of adults age 18 to 64 who were inoculated against the flu last year. The rate jumped to 65 percent for those age 65 and older.

52.2%

The percentage of pregnant women who got flu vaccines last year, and a similar number got them the year before. Before the flu pandemic of 2009, only about 15 percent of pregnant women were vaccinated against the flu.

90%

The percentage of hospital health care providers who were vaccinated against the flu last year. Many hospitals require vaccination or strongly promote it and offer it for free. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists outside of hospitals also had rates around 90 percent. Employees in long-term care facilities, on the other hand, had a vaccination rate of 63 percent.