Study shows many adults skipping flu shot

Free flu shots

Credit: Taka Yokoyama / WFAA

Collin County health officials closed a free flu shot clinic in Plano hours before it was scheduled to end because of overwhelming demand for the medication.

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on January 16, 2014 at 6:32 PM

DALLAS — According to a study released Tuesday by the Trust for America’s Health, about 35 percent of adults aged 18 to 64 get a flu shot.

The news of flu deaths in North Texas spurred a fear that sent Sherri Mack searching for the shot for her son.

"As the days went by, I got more and more freaked out," she said.

This late in the season, finding a shot wasn't easy.

"We've been riding around all day looking for a place to get a flu shot," said Al Mack, Sherri's son. "We went to four places already. They're all out."

The Dallas County Health Department has vaccine on hand, but it only ordered about half the amount it did a decade ago.

"It's been very frustrating," said Zachary Thompson, the director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

A decade a ago, Thompson ordered 20,000 to 25,000 doses. Now, he initially orders about 10,000 doses for the county. He’s ordered an additional 5,000 doses this year due to the flu outbreak, which has increased demand.

Until there's a major outbreak, Thompson said he can't give flu shots away. Since October, shots at the Dallas County Health Department have been free for low-income adults and children.

As for the low interest in immunization, Thompson and other health officials blame years of mixed messages.

In 2004, major manufacturing problems caused a nationwide shortage. Only senior citizens and people with health conditions could get flu shots. Lines at shot clinics across North Texas and nationwide were long.

When swine flu hit in 2009, vaccine was again limited to children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

"And the public was told healthy adults don't need to get the flu shot," Thompson said. "From that point, we have been hard-pressed to get back to those numbers of people coming in getting the flu shot."

Thompson says many companies don't offer flu shots to employees anymore, further dwindling the number of adults getting vaccinated. The H1N1 flu affects healthy adults disproportionately hard.

Thompson believes messages that urge everyone to get an annual flu shot have to be better so families like the Macks will be more inclined to protect themselves sooner rather than later.

Email jstjames@wfaa.com

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