Pandemic-era flu shot rates mirror COVID-19 vaccine polarization: Study

Concerns and polarized views about COVID-19 vaccinations spilled over to flu vaccination rates in adults, according to a study by researchers who examined over two pandemic years on both vaccines by state. 

The researchers are based at the University of California-Los Angeles Health Services and published their findings June 15 in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine

The authors say the findings warn of a declining trust in public health as eased COVID-19 measures put the population at further risk for disease threats such as the flu. They looked at CDC data on uptake for both vaccines through January 2022. During the first pandemic year, flu vaccination rates held steady, but they fell 4.5 percentage points (from 43.7 percent to 39.2 percent) in states with below-average COVID-19 vaccination rates in the second pandemic year when vaccines were widely available and promoted. 

In states that had strong COVID-19 vaccine uptake, flu vaccination rates increased by an average of 3.8 percentage points (from 49.0 percent to 52.8 percent). The researchers estimated the COVID-19 vaccination rate could predict 60 percent of its flu vaccination rate. 

Though the authors said the findings could indicate that those who felt compelled to oppose or support COVID-19 vaccinations could affect how they viewed other types of vaccines, they note the observational study didn't directly measure people's beliefs or prove mistrust in vaccines drove down flu vaccination rates. 


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