For a variety of reasons, there are just some individuals who refuse to get flu shots. That decision, however, can be dangerous and costly.
New research using principles of psychology and economics reveals why some patients continue to refuse to be vaccinated for influenza, and how physicians might be able to change their minds.
Every year, about 5% to 20% of Americans get the flu, resulting in more than 200,000 hospitalizations, thousands of deaths, and a cost of more than $80 billion, according to the report. Although efficacy of flu vaccines varies from year to year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the vaccine typically reduces infection by about 60% when there is a good match between the virus strains in the vaccine and those circulating in a particular flu season.
Most physicians have probably heard the top excuses for refusing the flu shot—people believe the vaccine will make them get the flu. Some think it just doesn’t work. Others believe that they are so unlikely to get the flu that the shot is pointless. There are also individuals who have problems with access or cost.
Frederick Chen, associate professor of economics at Wake Forest University an co-author of the new study, told Medical Economics these misconceptions people have about the costs and benefits of flu shots are the very reason for low vaccination rates. The traditional method of handing patients a pamphlet to read in hopes it will change their mind won’t help, according to researchers.
“Simply giving people information about vaccines is not effective and can actually lead to greater distrust of vaccines. People do not take in new information and come to a better conclusion,” Chen said. “Instead, recognizing that people’s situations and understanding of flu shots can differ widely, we recommend methods that humanize the issue and employ a more personal, concrete approach.”
‘A more personal and humanistic approach’
In order to clarify these misconceptions, Chen had this advice for physicians.
“Based on the latest research in the behavioral sciences, we believe that adopting a more personal and humanistic approach that makes it easier for people to relate to the flu and its consequences would help increase vaccination rate,” Chen said.