Mothers See Influenza As Health Threat, But Often Don't Get Their Families Vaccinated

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

While 78 percent of mothers in the United States consider influenza a severe and potentially life-threatening disease that can strike anyone, only half say it is likely their families will get vaccinated this season, according to a new survey from the American Lung Association.

"Our survey was done to help underscore that families are largely unaware they are at risk for influenza infection and to reinforce the need for greater awareness about the importance of annual immunization," said Bernadette Toomey, president and CEO of the American Lung Association.

Only 38 percent of moms say they will get vaccinated this influenza season, the survey found, and only 46 percent plan to encourage their spouses and children to get vaccinated against influenza, leaving them at risk for severe symptoms, serious complications and even death. More than 250 million Americans -- more than 4 out of 5 individuals -- are recommended to get influenza vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Virtually all mothers (95 percent) in the survey say they have the responsibility of organizing appointments for family members to get immunized against influenza.

"We surveyed mothers throughout the United States to assess their awareness about a family's need for influenza immunization, because these women are the family's health-care decision makers -- the ones who will make sure their loved ones go get immunized against influenza," said Ms. Toomey.

The Lung Association's national Faces of Influenza public awareness initiative urges Americans to get their annual influenza vaccination. The initiative is designed to help Americans see themselves among the many "faces" of influenza and recognize annual immunization as a safe and effective way to protect themselves and their families against influenza.

Kristi Yamaguchi, a mother and Olympic Gold Medal figure skater, is this year's national spokesperson for the Lung Association's Faces of Influenza initiative. Yamaguchi, also the most recent winner of "Dancing with the Stars," is helping to encourage other parents to see themselves and their family members among one or more target groups recommended for annual immunization by the CDC.

"My doctor every year stresses the importance of influenza vaccination to maintain my health as an athlete. But once I became a mom, I learned our two young children, my husband, our parents and even our babysitter should get the flu shot, too," said Yamaguchi. "As a mother, I take my family's health seriously and I encourage other mothers to talk to their health-care providers to learn whether vaccination is right for themselves and their families."

Yamaguchi is joined by other celebrities and many other families with firsthand experiences on the severity of influenza and need for increased immunization rates. This includes parents who have lost family members to this serious respiratory disease and are dedicated to preventing similar tragedies.


Health-care Professionals Not Always Recommending Influenza Vaccine, Mothers Report

The survey showed that fewer than half of mothers say their health-care professional strongly recommended immunization for their family. Forty percent of respondents also said health-care professionals neither recommended, nor discussed, influenza immunization for themselves.

CDC this year expanded its recommendations for annual influenza vaccination to include all children ages 6 months-18 years, however, only one-third of moms report that their child's pediatrician mentioned influenza vaccination for their children.

"Immunization is the best protection we have against influenza, yet many people don't realize they are recommended for vaccination," said Norman Edelman, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association. "We encourage Americans to talk to their health-care professionals about annual immunization or visit to find a flu clinic in their area. The influenza season usually peaks in February or March, so vaccination should continue though the fall, winter and spring."

About the Survey

This survey was conducted via telephone within the United States by CARAVAN Opinion Research Corporation, on behalf of the American Lung Association, among 1,000 adult females, 18 years of age and older with children up to 17 years old. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available upon request.

About Influenza

Influenza can strike anyone and can lead to severe complications, such as pneumonia, and even cause death. Vaccination is the best protection against the spread of the influenza virus, yet national vaccination rates remain alarmingly low. Each year, approximately 226,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized with complications from influenza and an average of 36,000 people die -- including about 100 children.

CDC recommends immunization for anyone who wishes to reduce their risk of contracting influenza; children 6 months-18 years of age; adults over 50 years of age; pregnant women; and anyone with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and diabetes. The CDC also recommends annual vaccination for caregivers and household contacts of high-risk groups, such as parents, grandparents, babysitters and health-care professionals.

Vaccination typically begins in October and can continue through March. In most seasons, influenza virus activity peaks in February or March, so vaccination throughout the entire influenza season is beneficial and recommended.

Influenza, along with its complications, is a serious respiratory illness. On average, 36,000 Americans die and about 226,000 people are hospitalized each year. Vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent influenza and its complications.