The flu shot is an important preventive measure against influenza, a contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe symptoms and sometimes lead to serious complications, hospitalization or death. Getting an annual flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu. However, many people still choose not to get vaccinated each year. Understanding vaccination coverage rates can help public health officials identify gaps and improve efforts to encourage broader immunization within the general population. This article will examine what percentage of people get the flu shot each year in the United States and globally. We’ll analyze vaccination rates across different age groups, geographic regions and over time. Identifying trends in flu shot uptake can inform public awareness campaigns and policies aimed at increasing immunization against seasonal influenza.
What percentage of people received the flu shot last season in the U.S.?
According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during the 2021-2022 flu season, about 58.4% of children aged 6 months to 17 years and 52.3% of adults aged 18 years and older received the seasonal flu vaccine. This translates to roughly 195 million Americans immunized, out of an estimated population of 332 million people.
Vaccination coverage was similar to the prior season, but remains significantly below the Healthy People 2030 goals of 70% coverage among children and 80% among adults. So while a slim majority of the U.S. population got vaccinated last flu season, over 40% did not receive the potentially life-saving vaccine. Ongoing efforts are needed to boost immunization rates and provide protection to more individuals against influenza.
U.S. flu vaccination coverage by detailed age groups
Looking more closely at vaccination rates across age groups in the U.S. during the 2021-2022 season:
- 6 months-4 years: 67.2% vaccinated
- 5-12 years: 62.5% vaccinated
- 13-17 years: 51.4% vaccinated
- 18-49 years: 47.4% vaccinated
- 50-64 years: 63.0% vaccinated
- 65 years and older: 76.5% vaccinated
Coverage was highest among children 6 months to 4 years old and adults over 65. Among middle-aged adults 50-64 years, a moderate percentage got vaccinated. Young adults 18-49 years had the lowest flu shot uptake, with less than half immunized.
U.S flu shot coverage over the past decade
Looking further back over the past decade, flu vaccination coverage in the U.S. population has remained fairly steady:
|Flu season||Coverage among all adults ≥18 years old|
Vaccination coverage has hovered right around 50% for adults over the past decade, with slight fluctuations year to year. There was a noticeable dip during the mid-2010s. Coverage peaked at its highest point in over a decade during the 2021-22 flu season, but remains below national targets.
Among children, vaccination rates have followed a similar trend over the past decade. Coverage peaked last season, reaching the national target of 70% for the first time in over a decade. But work remains to sustain this higher immunization level going forward.
What percentage of the population gets the flu shot globally?
Globally, flu vaccination coverage and uptake varies widely between regions and individual countries’ vaccination policies and health systems.
According to a systemic review published in 2020, global seasonal influenza vaccine coverage was estimated at 42% on average across all age groups. This is similar to vaccination rates within the U.S. population. However, stark differences emerge when looking at specific world regions:
- North America: averaged 48% coverage
- Europe: averaged 44% coverage
- Eastern Mediterranean: averaged 38% coverage
- Western Pacific: averaged 35% coverage
- Southeast Asia: averaged 34% coverage
- Africa: averaged 24% coverage
- South America: averaged 68% coverage
This data shows distinct regional variation. North America and Europe have moderately higher flu shot coverage compared to other world regions. South America stands out with the highest estimated uptake globally. Meanwhile, Africa and Southeast Asia have large gaps in immunization.
Flu shot coverage examples for select countries
Looking at a few specific countries provides examples of the wide differences in flu vaccination rates worldwide:
- United States: 52%
- Canada: 34%
- Chile: 84% (highest globally)
- Australia: 70-75% among seniors
- United Kingdom: 44-55% among seniors
- Germany: 36% among seniors
- South Korea: 82% among children
- Kenya: 2%
- India: 1%
- China: 2%
Chile, Australia and South Korea have some of the most robust flu vaccination programs and highest coverage globally. The U.S. and Canada fall in the mid-range. Low-income countries like Kenya, India and China lag far behind in immunizing their populations against seasonal flu.
These examples demonstrate the need to increase vaccine access and flu shot promotion in developing parts of the world.
Factors impacting flu shot uptake
Many factors on both a population and individual level impact whether people choose to get the seasonal flu vaccine each year. These may help explain differences in coverage observed between groups.
Vaccine policies and recommendations
A country’s official vaccine policies and recommendations directly impact vaccination rates. Some governments provide and promote free universal flu shots to all citizens, which boosts uptake. Other nations subsidize shots for select high-risk groups like the elderly. Meanwhile, flu shots remain cost-prohibitive for many individuals in low-income regions lacking vaccination programs.
For example, Chile’s free flu shot program for all citizens led to 84% coverage, while poorer countries like India have very low vaccination rates. In the U.S., universal flu vaccine recommendations help drive moderately higher immunization compared to some other developed nations.
Access and convenience
Vaccine distribution systems and access channels also affect whether people get vaccinated. Workplace programs, school requirements, pharmacies and clinics that offer flu shots influence their availability and convenience to the public. Mailing free vouchers to vulnerable individuals in the U.S. has been shown to increase vaccination. Meanwhile, barriers like out-of-pocket costs or lack of transportation reduce access.
Public awareness and messaging
Public health campaigns, advertisements, social media and news coverage shape individual awareness and attitudes. Promoting flu shot safety, effectiveness and importance motivates uptake. Reminder notifications have also been demonstrated to increase immunization. On the other hand, anti-vaccine misinformation and complacency during milder flu seasons can deter shots. Targeted messaging and addressing concerns are key.
Vaccination coverage often varies across demographic factors like age, location, race/ethnicity and health status. For example, flu shot uptake in the U.S. is higher among White adults compared to Hispanic, Black and Asian adults. Seniors also have higher immunization rates than younger age groups. Identifying coverage gaps can inform targeted efforts to improve equity.
Individual attitudes and beliefs
Personal opinions about perceived risks of flu illness versus vaccine side effects shape choices. Doubts about shot importance, effectiveness or safety deter uptake. Conversely, understanding flu risks and benefits of vaccination motivate shot acceptance. Doctors recommending flu shots also encourages many individuals to get vaccinated. Addressing misconceptions through education and outreach can help change behaviors.
In summary, around half of the total U.S. population gets the flu vaccine each season. Coverage reached 52% last year, meeting goals for children but still below targets for adults. Vaccination rates have remained fairly steady over the past decade, fluctuating slightly between seasons. Globally, average flu shot uptake is estimated around 42% across all age groups. However, stark disparities exist between world regions and individual countries based on vaccine policies and health systems. Going forward, efforts to improve access, awareness and positive messaging will be key to increasing flu shot coverage in populations across the U.S. and globally. Sustaining higher immunization rates can better protect communities from influenza through widespread vaccination.