Fewer than half of Americans get flu shots

Marketplace Contributor Nov 26, 2014

Fewer than half of Americans get flu shots

Marketplace Contributor Nov 26, 2014

Ebola seems so scary, even when there’s little to no chance of an American outbreak. But what about the flu? It kills children, puts thousands of adults in the hospital, and sickens 10 percent of us every year. Yet lots of Americans don’t get flu shots.

Rick Monier is standing right outside a grocery store; the kind of place where you can get a flu shot in two minutes for $28, even less if you have insurance.

And Monier is a senior citizen — a group for whom the flu can be fatal.

Although Monier gets the necessary vaccinations, he does not get a flu shot.

““I don’t believe in it because we’re injecting something into our body that necessarily I don’t need,” he says. “So I try to stay away from people that have it. Or if I get it, we’ll just go through the motions.”

Tina Dale makes sure her kids get the shots … but she doesn’t. “I got it once and got sick and now I will never get it again,” she says.

Fewer than half of all Americans actually get the flu shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s despite the fact that flu shot does not contain a live virus or anything else that can give you the flu.

Last flu season, 109 kids died from complications.

But let’s say you’re a healthy adult, you don’t have kids. Do you really need the flu shot?

“The more people that get shots, the safer the group will be,” says Andrew Maynard, a professor and director of the University of Michigan’s Risk Science Center. He says even if you don’t care about getting sick, getting the flu shot protects others.

“Especially those kids that haven’t got shots, they’re the one who are really vulnerable,” he says. “So this is really a social duty.”

Maynard says our brains just aren’t built to be smart about risk. We’re way more scared of the unfamiliar, like Ebola. But something so common, like the flu? It’s tough to be afraid of that.

“That doesn’t make sense on an emotional level,” he says. “So at the end of the day, we just have to make the plunge, and we just have to trust somebody that this is going to be good for us.”

Still, public health experts agree that until flu shots are good for years, rather than something you have to get every 12 months, we’re just never going to get everybody to get that shot.

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