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Why don’t more high-risk people get a flu shot

This one would stump Einstein.

In a study just released at the American Heart Association annual meeting (so the data has not been published in a journal yet), researchers examined data collected between 2008 and 2015 on flu shot rates among more than 15,000 Americans aged 40 and up who were at high risk of complications from the flu because they had either had a heart attack or a stroke or had other significant risk factors for heart disease.

And an amazing one third of these people didn’t get an annual flu shot, even though the flu shot, imperfect as it is, is well known to decrease hospitalizations and other complications in high-risk patients.

Why the low rate of flu immunization among the high-riskers out here?

Well, this study was not geared to analyzing that but I think part of the reason must clearly be the strong focus every year – by the media, to be sure, but also by many doctors – on how well – or not – that year’s flu shot has matched the flu strains circulating in the community, because it’s just common sense that if people hear something in the media or from expert analysts like “Oh, this year’s flu shot is only 25 % effective against the flu strains currently circulating”, then a lot of people will decide it’s probably not worth getting a flu shot, even though study after study has found that even with minimal matching, flu shots save lives, especially among those at highest risk.

So, sing along with me: Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, get your flu shot, then you party. (Deepest apologies to Mel Brooks).