As Patient Concerns Linger Over Possible COVID-19 Vaccine Risks, US Healthcare Professionals Believe 80% Will Get the Flu Vaccine this Year, Says InCrowd Data

Yet PCPs report that 79% of those declining cite misinformation on risks and benefits

WATERTOWN, MA January 27, 2021—With public health officials reiterating the importance of the seasonal flu shot amid the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, among those US patients who decline the flu vaccine, 79% of them cite misperceptions about the seasonal flu vaccine to their Primary Care Physicians (PCPs)—which reflects a significant increase from 51% in 2018. Despite CDC reports of higher adult flu vaccination coverage through January 1, 2021 though lower levels for other subgroups, healthcare professional (HCP) estimates of the total number of patients who would receive a flu shot this flu season will remain consistent, at 80% with 79% reported in 2018.

Data were sourced from PCPs, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and geriatrists by InCrowd, the pioneer for real-time, high-quality primary market intelligence for the life science industry—part of the Apollo Intelligence family.

Among the patients declining the flu vaccine, patients stating that they didn’t need a flu shot because they rarely, if ever, get the flu, more than doubled, to 78%, from 32% in 2018. While an estimated 47% of this segment now hold overall anti-vax sentiments, up from 6% in 2018. In regard to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, 57% of respondents believe patient concerns related to unknown, long-term side effects will impede vaccine adoption. And only 36% report they are optimistic that the planned policies of the new presidential administration will effectively contain the pandemic.

HCPs estimate 40% of US patients today are hesitant about obtaining the seasonal flu shot, although 19% of patients are hesitant but will still get one anyway. In comparison, 60% of patients are deemed COVID-19-vaccine hesitant, and 29% of patients are hesitant but will likely get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to respondents. That said, 74% of respondents believe the habits that community members have adopted for COVID-19 will help reduce the spread of the flu this year.

Reiterating CDC-documented increases, PCPs anticipated pharmacy or grocery store administration of flu shots rose to 22% in 2020, up from 18% in 2018.

“Though COVID-19 practices may help to minimize the flu this year, HCP reports on patient perceptions around both the flu and COVID vaccines are concerning,” said Caleb Costa, chief commercial officer at InCrowd, which has tracked seasonal flu perceptions since 2015. “Public health officials need to take stock and consider how to best inform citizens on the risks and benefits of both vaccines and support HCPs as they convey this information as trusted sources for patients. We’ll continue to follow provider perceptions as both vaccines rollout in 2021.”

In verbatim remarks HCPs say they are combatting reluctance to getting the flu shot by emphasizing the importance of patients protecting themselves and those who are high risk and underscoring practical considerations during the pandemic.

“We discuss concerns of the current pandemic and not wanting a flu pandemic on top of COVID. Also, that flu/COVID will be hard to distinguish and they may end up with long quarantines for flu symptoms if they don’t get the vaccine,” said a PCP from Washington state.

“I explain to them that the vaccine may not protect you against getting the flu but will protect you from dying from the flu and typically make it much less severe if you do get it,” noted a physician’s assistant from Texas.

On vaccine mandates and vaccination involvement, InCrowd’s report found that:

  • Four in five clinicians report their facilities mandate a flu vaccine, a finding equivalent to previous years. Mandates varied by setting, with 98% for hospital-based workers, versus 37% for retail-based professionals.
  • Three in five anticipate that over time COVID-19 vaccination will be made mandatory by their employers. Three-quarters of HCPs in the report expect to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Numerous clinicians wrote that they were getting seasonal flu and COVID-19 vaccines to set an example for patients.

InCrowd’s Perceptions on 2020 Vaccines against Influenza and COVID-19 Report includes n=334 US HCPs, each of whom administer the flu vaccine. These include PCP (n=101), geriatricians (n=33), nurse practitioners (n=50), physician assistants (n=50), and pharmacists (n=100). The six-minute online survey was fielded between December 2-8, 2020. For the complete findings, please download the full report.