41 percent of adults don't plan to get flu shot despite last year's deadly season

More than 40 percent of American adults have not received a flu shot this year and don't plan to do so, according to a new poll released Wednesday. 

The survey from NORC at the University of Chicago found that, as of mid-November, 41 percent of adults said they haven't been vaccinated and have no plans to change that, despite last season's record-high death toll. 

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Among adults who said they don't plan to get vaccinated, most were concerned about side effects and getting the flu from the vaccination. Others believed that the flu vaccines don't work very well or that they were unlikely to get sick from the flu. 

Health experts argue the side effects of the vaccine are generally mild and the vaccine does not cause the flu.

For those who received flu shots in the past two flu seasons, their chance of getting the virus dropped 40 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health officials at the federal level have pleaded with the public to get vaccinated this year after the virus killed 80,000 people last year, making 2017 the deadliest flu season in decades. 

In recent seasons, the death count has ranged from 12,000 in 2011–2012 to 56,000 during the 2012–2013 season.

Top officials, including Surgeon General Jerome Adams, have framed getting vaccinated as a social responsibility. 

When healthy adults get vaccinated, it can not only protect them from the flu but also stop them from spreading it to children and the elderly, who have weaker immune systems, experts say. 

“Flu vaccination helps prevent people from getting sick with the flu and reduces the severity of illness for those who do get sick," said Caroline Pearson, senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago.

"Widespread vaccination also helps create ‘herd immunity’ that protects vulnerable groups who are prevented from getting vaccinated."

Adams put it in plain terms at a news conference in September: 

"That herd immunity is so, so very important," he said at a news conference. "That community immunity is what we want to take home today; 80,000 deaths last year and they all got the flu from someone else."

That included 180 children, the majority of whom were unvaccinated, he said. 

According to the poll, among adults with children under age 18, 39 percent said they don't vaccinate their children.

The death toll from the flu last year was the highest its been in four decades, with cases increasing in November and peaking in January and February. 

Still, according to the NORC survey, only 43 percent of adults reported getting a flu vaccination. 

Another 14 percent said they have not been vaccinated but plan to this season. 

People over the age of 60 reported the highest vaccination rate, while adults under age 45 are the least likely to report being vaccinated. 

The poll, which was conducted from Nov. 14 to Nov. 19, included 1,202 interviews with a nationally representative sample of Americans in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.