There is a 25-point gap between Republicans and Democrats on flu shots

  • Recent polls show a 25 percentage point difference between Republicans and Democrats who have had or will get a flu shot.
  • This is remarkably similar to the approx. 30 percentage point batch gap on COVID-19 vaccine uptake.
  • Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was little or no partial gap in influenza vaccine intake.

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Recent polls show that Republicans are now much less likely to get one

flu shot

than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating that the politicization of coronavirus vaccines is bleeding into influenza vaccination.

In the years leading up to the global pandemic, Republicans and Democrats alike were likely to get an annual flu shot, CNN recently pointed out. In an AP-NORC poll from February 2020, 58% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans said they had been given a flu shot within the past year.

This year, between 65 and 68% of Democrats say they have had or will almost certainly get a flu shot, while between 40 and 44% of Republicans said they have or will be vaccinated against the flu, the latest polls show. A study by UC San Diego published last spring showed that Republicans had become less likely to say they would get a flu shot during the pandemic.

This difference reflects the approximately 30 percentage point difference between Democrats and Republicans who have received a COVID-19 plug. While between 90 and 95% of Democrats 18 years and older have received a coronavirus vaccine, only about 65% of adult Republicans have done the same.

Coronavirus vaccines, vaccine mandates, and other public health efforts related to the pandemic, including mask wearing and lockdowns, have been heavily politicized over the past nearly two years. Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to oppose these mitigation efforts. Many Republican lawmakers and politicians have aggressively opposed COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements, an attitude that some experts fear will exacerbate hesitation and opposition to other vaccines as well.

This biased gap in vaccine intake is one of the reasons why there is a markedly higher COVID-19 death rate in counties that voted for former President Donald Trump and those that President Joe Biden won in 2020. Those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine are much more likely to have received or say they will get a flu vaccination than those who have not been vaccinated against coronavirus.

This is happening as public health officials have stepped up their efforts to promote the flu vaccine. Last year, medical experts warned of a “twindemy” of both rising COVID-19 cases and a flu epidemic that could overwhelm hospitals already stretched to the brim with coronavirus patients before the release of the COVID-19 vaccines. The 2020-2021 flu season was ultimately very mild, probably because many Americans stayed home, distanced themselves from others, and wore masks to protect against coronavirus. However, with many COVID-19 control efforts loosened this year, it is likely that cases of influenza will be higher.

Some private units have also intensified their efforts to combat influenza as a season. Some universities have mandated that students and staff be given the flu shot this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone in the United States six months and older get a flu shot. Medical experts warn that contracting the flu can make people more vulnerable to COVID-19, and that capturing both viruses at the same time can dramatically increase the risk of serious illness or death.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is not over, and the risk of both influenza and Covid-19 circulating could put further pressure on frontline hospitals and healthcare professionals,” said CDC chief Dr. Rochelle Walensky in October.

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