Good news: About 1/2 of Ky. adults got a flu shot in the past 12 months. Bad news: About 1/2 didn’t. It’s not too late to get one.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention graphic

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

A new Kentucky Health Issues Poll found that about half of Kentucky adults got a flu shot in the last 12 months. This is great news since it is higher than the prior year, when more than 300 Kentuckians, including five children, died from influenza — but it also means the other half need to get vaccinated, since the recommendation is for everyone six months and older to get a shot each year.

“If you have not received your flu shot this season, please get it now,” Dr. Brent Wright, president–elect of the Kentucky Medical Association, said in a news release from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which co-sponsors the poll. “Make no mistake, the flu is not a cold; it is serious and not something to mess around with. . . . Please give yourself, your family, and your community a gift by getting a flu shot this season.”

Wright, who is also the foundation board’s treasurer, stressed that the flu can be dangerous, often leading to a lengthy illness, hospitalization, and in some cases death. Flu season usually peaks between December and February, but can last as late as May.

Last flu season, more than 10,500 Kentuckians were infected and 333 Kentuckians, including five children, died from flu complications. For the season, only 41 percent of Kentucky adults got a flu shot and 55 percent of children did, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kentucky continues to be under a flu threat that the CDC defines as “regional,” with confirmed cases in 15 of the state’s 17 health regions. So far this season, Kentucky has had 299 cases and two deaths from it, according to the state Department for Public Health weekly flu surveillance report.

The health issues poll, taken Aug. 26 to Oct. 21, found that 54 percent of Kentucky adults got a flu shot in the previous 12 months.

It also found that women were more likely (58 percent) than men (48 percent) to get a shot. People 65 and older were most likely to get vaccinated, at a rate of 69 percent, while those between the 30 and 45 were the least likely, at 42 percent.

Asked their main reason for not getting the flu vaccine, 56 percent reported one of the common misconceptions about the flu, including that they thought it would make them sick, that it was not effective, or that they didn’t need it because they were healthy. All of these persistent myths have been debunked.

“In fact, flu vaccines do not cause the flu . . . and it’s important for both healthy people and those who may be vulnerable to serious flu complications to get vaccinated annually, according to the CDC,” says the release.

Others said they didn’t get the vaccine because of access issues, including cost, lack of insurance, not knowing where to get one, and because getting one interfered with their work schedule.

If you’re looking for a place to get your flu shot, the CDC offers an interactive “flu vaccine finder” that allows you to type in your ZIP code to find nearby locations that offer flu shots. Local health departments offer the vaccine.

“Annual flu shots work,” Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation, said in the release. “They keep us from getting the most common strains of flu each season and reduce the risk of complications and even death if we do end up getting sick. Just as important, when the majority of us get our flu shots, we provide a stronger measure of protection for infants and those with compromised immune systems who cannot get the vaccine.”

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll is also funded by Interact for Health, a Cincinnati-area foundation. The latest poll surveyed a random sample of 1,569 adults via landlines and cell phones. The margin of error for each statewide result is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

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