Nearly half of U.S. adults plan on skipping their flu shot this year, often for dubious reasons, according to a new survey.
About 48 percent of adults said they would not get vaccinated this season, citing such reasons as "I don't get sick," and the erroneous belief that the vaccine causes the flu, according to the survey by Consumer Reports Health.
In addition, of all 2,011 survey respondents, two-thirds thought it was better to build up a "natural immunity" to the flu virus than to be vaccinated.
However, "there is no evidence that people who get flu shots have lower natural immunities or that people who don't get flu shots have higher immunities," Dr. John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, said in a written statement.
Flu season typically begins in late October and can last until as late as May. Experts recommend that most people over the age of 6 months get a flu shot every year. This is especially important for people at elevated risk of potentially fatal flu complications like pneumonia — including adults older than 50 and people with chronic health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and kidney disease.
The vaccine contains killed flu viruses, so it is not possible to catch the infection from the vaccine. Some people do, however, develop a mild fever for a day or two after the shot, as the immune system reacts to the vaccine.
In the current survey, only 52 percent of respondents said they planned on being vaccinated this flu season. Some of respondents' most common reasons for shunning the vaccine were that they "don't get sick," (45 percent), they knew someone who'd gotten sick from the vaccine (41 percent) and they believed the vaccine to be ineffective (26 percent).
About one-third worried about the vaccine's side effects, while roughly one-quarter said they either did not like shots or did not like doctors.
"Sounds like a lot of excuses and misconceptions to avoid a quick and inexpensive, if not free, shot," Santa said.
"People need to know that getting a flu vaccination every year is the best way to prevent the flu," he added.
"The vaccine will not make them sick or give them the flu. Without it, they and their families are at higher risk of getting the flu. If they get the flu they may transmit it to vulnerable people for whom the consequences may be serious."