Proportion Getting Flu Shot Appear Steady, but Some Behaviours Evolving

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According to Senior Vice‐President Doug Anderson “On the surface, Canadians appear to be sticking to old habits when it comes to getting a flu shot, but our study suggests that two interesting trends may be taking place: people may be getting the shot earlier than in the past; and, the fastest growing segments of flu shot recipients are parents and youth.”

Slight Majority of Canadians Feel Flu is Unlikely to Hit Their Household

Over time, perceptions on this question have only seen slight change with 43% in 2012, and 44% in 2011 saying they thought they or someone in their family would get the regular, seasonal, flu virus.

Currently, 42% feel it’s very (13%) or somewhat (29%) likely that they or someone in their family will become sick with the regular, seasonal, flu this flu season. Conversely, 56% feel it is unlikely they or their family will become sick with the flu. Younger Canadians, particularly those under the age of 45, are more likely than those older to feel they’ll become sick with the flu.

Reporting on Receiving Previous Season’s Flu Shot Holding Steady

Our study includes questions on Canadians’ past flu-shot behaviour. In this wave of study, 41% of Canadians claim they received a flu shot during last year’s flu season – that is, the 2012 flu season. A year ago, we found the same level of claimed historic flu-shot behaviour and in the 2011 wave of study, we found 38% claimed to have received the shot during the 2010 flu season.

Overall, this suggests a rather stable level of flu-shot adoption, with perhaps a slight increase over the adoption level of 2010.

Majority Have Had Flu Shot at Least Once In Recent Years

Asked to think back over the past five years, responses indicate there must be some more fluctuation in behaviour than the finding above suggests. In fact, although each year of study over the past three years has found between 58% and 61% saying they did not receive a flu shot in the previous season, only 42% say they have not received a single shot in the past five years. Therefore, while it is clear that about four out of ten are consistently declining the option, the majority of Canadians have had at least one flu shot in the past five years.

There are some Canadians (27%) who have consistently been flu shot recipients over the last five years. Another 13% have gotten the flu shot three or four times over that span, bringing to 40% the proportion who get a flu shot more often than not – virtually identical to those saying they got a shot last season. In addition, 18% say they have gotten a flu shot once or twice in the past five years, suggesting there is some significant fluctuation in the flu shot recipient population each year. The regularity of getting the flu shot correlates highly with age. Half of those over the age of 55 say they’ve consistently received the flu shot over each of the last five years. This number contrasts with findings among younger groups.

Canadians Claim to be Getting Vaccinated Earlier than in the Past

Across the waves of study over the past three years, we have made slight adjustments to the timing of the survey and it would appear that has an effect on whether or not respondents have already received a flu shot, but it apparently bears little relation to the total proportion who expect they will have received a flu shot before the season is over.

In 2011, the survey was conducted at its latest point in time in a flu season – January – and that year we found 28% had already received a flu shot and another 10% who had not but intended to. This brought to 38% the total proportion who expected to have been vaccinated that flu season.

In 2012, the survey was conducted at its earliest point in time in a flu season – November – and that year we found only 15% had already received a flu shot but another 29% who had not but intended to. This brought to 44% the total proportion who expected to have been vaccinated that flu season.

This year, the survey was conducted right in between those two previous field dates – December – and we found the highest proportion to date claiming to have already received a flu shot (33%). An additional 11% have not but intend to, bringing to 44% the total proportion who expected to have been vaccinated that flu season – identical to the claimed behaviour measured in last year’s study.

Taken together, this tracking data suggests that while the total proportion of Canadians who ultimately get vaccinated may remain identical this year, it seems to be the case that Canadians who are getting vaccinated are doing so earlier in the season – certainly, compared to 2011.

Demographically, there are some consistent differences from year to year on this question.

Using both the January 2011 results and the December 2013 results, we find that residents of Atlantic Canada, those over the age of 50 and those with no children in the household are all typically more likely have already gotten the flu shot, whether we survey in December or January.

This year, Ontario residents join Atlantic residents in being most likely to have already received a flu shot. For Ontario, this proportion is currently 40% compared to 30% measured among Ontario residents in January 2011.

Conversely, three demographic segments are least likely to have been vaccinated by the time we conduct our surveys: Quebec residents; those under 50 years of age (particularly, those 18 to 34); and parents with children at home.

Canadian Behavioural Segments Suggest Shifting Patterns Unfolding

A segmentation analysis reveals that Canadians can be sorted into one of four groups based on their flu shot behaviour. As mentioned previously, about one in four respondents (27%) are ‘dedicated’ recipients of flu shots. This group has gotten a flu shot every year, and will do so again this year.

An additional 18% are ‘now convinced’ meaning they’ve not always gotten the flu shot in the past, but will do so this year.

An almost identical proportion (16%) are a segment we have labelled as ‘eroding’ because although they’ve gotten the flu shot at least once in the past five years, they do not intend to this year.

Finally, four in ten (39%) are considered ‘never convinced’. This group hasn’t even gotten the flu shot once in the last five years and won’t get the flu shot this year.

The demographic profile of these segments echoes some of those identified above, but there are two demographic differences that suggest the demographic profile of those who get flu shots may be in the midst of a change:

  • Those under 50, and in particular, those 18 to 34 are significantly more likely than older Canadians to be among the “now convinced” segment and intending to be vaccinated this year;
  • Similarly (and undoubtedly sharing the under-50 age profile), parents are more likely than non-parent to be among this “now convinced” segment.

Recall & Impact of Flu Shot Communications

More than three in four have seen advertising about the flu shot (76%). While clear majorities of every subgroup claim to have been exposed to communications, at 88%, residents of Alberta stand out as most likely to have heard such a message.

Communications about getting a flu shot does not appear to positively correlate with the intent of getting one. Those who have seen any communications about getting a shot claim to be no more inclined to get a shot than those who have not seen any communications.

However, those who have seen advertising about getting a flu shot are certainly more likely to have ALREADY done so, which suggests the communications may have had some impact – either of accelerating the timeframe or ensuring follow-through.

Reasons Why Some Canadians Will Not Get a Flu Shot

Feeling healthy or not at risk and not trusting the flu shot are among the main reasons cited among people are not planning on getting the flu shot this year. Nationally, 41% of those who are not getting the flu shot this year say they’re not doing so because they’re already healthy and don’t need the flu shot. More than one in five (23%) say they’re not getting a flu shot because they don’t trust the flu shot and don’t believe in them, while 13% say flu shots aren’t effective and don’t work.

Minority of Parents Vaccinate Children, Closely Tied to Their Own Behaviour

By a significant margin more parents with children under the age of 18 at home say they will not vaccinate their children than say they will. Nationally, while 39% say they will, 55% will not have their children vaccinated. Compared to historic data, it would appear the inclination to vaccinate children is increasing. In 2012, 32% said they’d have their children vaccinated, while in 2011 this number was 31%.

On this question, there is also strong correlation with respondent’s own behaviour. If they are disinclined to get a shot themselves, they are disinclined to vaccinate their own children. Among those parents who have had a flu shot in most or all of the past five years, the vast majority (75%) intend to vaccinate their children this season. In striking contrast, among parents who have not vaccinated themselves as often in the past five years, only 23% intend to vaccinate their children this year.

Reasons for Not Vaccinating Children Similar to Those Among Adults

The rationale for not vaccinating their children is similar to why people say they won’t get the flu shot themselves. One in three (34%) say their child is healthy and vaccinating them isn’t necessary, while 25% say they don’t believe in the flu shot and don’t trust them.

More than four in ten consider getting the flu shot to be important. Nationally, 43% say getting the flu shot is the most important thing (11%) or one of the most important things (32%) in the prevention of contracting the season flu. A further 34% consider it important, but not essential, while 20% feel getting the flu shot is not important at all in preventing the flu. Compared to the 2012 study, these proportions have remained fairly static.

Data was collected using computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) via the Harris/Decima teleVox omnibus. Overall, 1,032 completes were collected nationally between December 5 and December 10, 2013. The sample consists of 80% landline and 20% cell phone respondents, with quotas by gender (50/50 split) and by region. The data is weighted in tabulation to replicate actual population distribution by age and gender within region according to the 2011 Census data. This survey is considered accurate to a margin of plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.