Why don’t some people with asthma get vaccinated against the flu?

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Has it started where you are? The unrelenting sniffles that seem to pass in a wave around the office. The feeling of dread at the unmistakable sound of a sneeze on the packed commuter train. As the temperature in more northern parts of the world lowers, flu season approaches.

Many of us may have had, or will get, the flu and recover after several days to a week of rest. Some people will not be so lucky. Those over the age of 65 and people with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, impaired immunity, heart or kidney problems, and even pregnant women, are at risk of complications. These groups of people are encouraged to get vaccinated – but will they?

A recent article published in Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine, Predictors of Seasonal Influenza vaccination in chronic asthma, surveyed a group of people with asthma in 2012 to find out whether they had decided to get the flu vaccine and what had influenced their decision. The same group of people were contacted again early 2013 to find out about their decisions regarding the vaccine the following year.

The study found that females were more likely to get vaccinated than males and that vaccination rates increased with increasing age of participants. Patients who received advice from a doctor or healthcare professional were also more likely to get vaccinated, as were those who experienced more severe asthma symptoms the previous year. The biggest factor that deterred people from getting vaccinated was the fear of side-effects of the vaccine, although nearly a quarter of the participants reported getting vaccinated both years despite experiencing side-effects the first year.

There have been many studies showing support for vaccination with benefits such as reduced hospitalization, fewer deaths and lower healthcare costs due to influenza complications. Many health agencies such as the National Health Service and Center for Disease Control have information for citizens about reducing the risk of getting the flu.