November 23, 2015
How many individuals in the United States received a flu shot during the 2015-2016 influenza season?
a. 126 million
b. 144 million
c. 165 million
d. 188 million
Only 45.6% of Americans received influenza vaccinations during the last flu season, a drop of 1.5% from the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That coverage, which translated into 144 million people being vaccinated, was well below the 70% target rate set by the U.S. government’s Healthy People 2020 initiative. Coverage among children 6 months to 23 months reached 75%, making it the only age group to exceed the national public health goal.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden recently shared some alarming statistics that highlight the importance of increasing vaccine coverage. Consider that each year the flu is responsible for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and nearly 50,000 deaths, and that most of the 100 children and infants who die annually from the flu aren’t vaccinated. Dr. Frieden was encouraged that children had the highest rate of coverage, but he also emphasized that 30 million kids didn’t get vaccinated last season. He pointed out that they’re the group that’s most likely to get the flu and spread it throughout communities.
There is some good news. Increasing vaccination coverage by just 5% would prevent 800,000 illnesses and approximately 10,000 flu-related hospitalizations, according to Dr. Frieden. He said flu vaccine is one of the best buys in public health because it reduces hospitalizations and related healthcare spending, keeps the workforce healthy, and kids in school. Dr. Frieden also pointed out that there will be upwards of 168 million vaccination doses available during this flu season — plenty to go around — so there’s no reason why national coverage rates shouldn’t increase.