Southern Cross Health Society has released survey results that show around one third of those who didn’t get the flu vaccination this year chose not to because they don’t believe the vaccination will work, exposing them to one of winter’s nastiest ills.
The survey was conducted by TNS during June 2011 with a sample size of 1,847 people with health insurance.
The survey results follow news this week that hospital emergency departments and wards are at or over capacity due to patients with flu-like symptoms.
Southern Cross Health Society Chief Executive Peter Tynan says the concern is that many of those surveyed between the ages of 21 and 29, who are the backbone of our workforce, are choosing not to be vaccinated.
“This is a major concern for the wider health and productivity of New Zealand. Elderly people of course are at greater risk from influenza, but our survey shows they're taking up the vaccination.”
While the 65+ age bracket has the highest proportion of flu injections (74%), only 28% of the 21-29 year old group surveyed had the flu vaccination this year. Thirty nine per cent of this age group who did not get a vaccination do not believe that they work.
"People tend to blame the vaccination for not working when they’re struck down by flu that is of a different strain to one they were immunised against," says Mr Tynan. “A significant amount of work is done by health officials every year to identify the most common strains likely to hit people during the coming winter. People are usually well protected against the two or three selected.”
The Ministry of Health says the influenza vaccination is 70-90 per cent effective in preventing infection with influenza A and B viruses in healthy adults when there is a good match between the vaccine and circulating influenza strains.
Certain groups at risk, such as those aged 65 and over and those with respiratory conditions, can take advantage of the Government subsidy ensuring that cost is not a barrier for the flu vaccination. Less than four per cent of those surveyed who did not get a flu vaccination said cost was the reason why they had not had the injection.
Mr Tynan says a large number of Southern Cross Health Society’s corporate customers include flu vaccinations as part of their employee wellness programmes. The survey showed that employers paid for 50% of all the flu vaccinations given, with the Government subsidising another 21%.
“Employers are highly motivated to keep staff well, both for the employee’s sake and to avoid absenteeism. Having the flu also impacts on the wider team by having team members out of the office or coming in spreading infection,” says Mr Tynan.