Philadelphia—Vaccine uptake might be lower than expected, but that does not mean U.S. adults are not worried about their family or themselves getting a seasonal infectious disease.

In fact, more than one-third of American adults are worried that they or a loved one will get the seasonal flu, COVID-19, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the next 3 months, according to a new health survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania.

The Annenberg Science and Public Health Knowledge survey was conducted October 5–12, 2023, with a panel of more than 1,500 U.S. adults.

The respondents were uncertain, however, about which virus they thought would be more likely to cause severe illness: 22% say COVID-19, 13% say RSV, 7% say seasonal flu, and 41% say they are equally likely to cause severe illness. Sixteen percent were not sure.

In general, the survey found that respondents had become much more knowledgeable about RSV than they had been earlier in the year. Among the other significant survey findings were:

• 35% worry that they or someone in their family will get RSV in the next 3 months, up from 32% in January 2023; about two-thirds (65%) are not worried
• 35% are worried that they or someone in their family will get COVID-19 in the next 3 months, up from 21% in August 2023 but similar to last winter (36% in January 2023); about two-thirds (65%) are not worried
• 39% are worried that they or someone in their family will contract the seasonal flu in the next 3 months, statistically unchanged from January 2023; six in 10 people (61%) are not worried.
• Nearly one in three people (31%) say they personally know someone who believes they are suffering long-term health complications as a result of getting infected with COVID-19
• At the time the survey was fielded, 21% said they had received the flu shot this season; this is compared with 26% in mid-October 2022 and 38% in the second week of November 2021.

“Because getting a flu shot yearly not only helps to protect us from serious infection but also predicts our acceptance of other CDC-recommended vaccines, the drop in reported flu vaccination we see reflected in our panel is worrisome,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the APPC and of the survey.

The survey data come from the 13th wave of a nationally representative panel of 1,559 U.S. adults, first empaneled in April 2021, conducted for the APPC by SSRS—an independent market research company.

The policy center has been tracking the American public’s knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors regarding vaccination, COVID-19, flu, RSV, and other consequential health issues through this survey panel over the past 2.5 years.

Although knowledge about RSV has increased, the survey did not find much enthusiasm for the new vaccines to protect against it. Two vaccines against RSV for adults aged 60 years and older were approved in May by the FDA, and in June, the CDC recommended that older adults “may receive a single dose of RSV vaccine” upon consultation with their healthcare provider.

The survey on RSV and the vaccines found a mixed reception for the RSV preventives:

• Over one-half of those surveyed (55%) say they would be likely to recommend that a friend or family member aged 60 years or older talk with their healthcare provider about whether to get the RSV vaccine—a statistically significant decline from 61% in August 2023
• Reactions to RSV vaccines for a pregnant friend or family member were more mixed. After being told that the CDC recommended this new vaccine against RSV for pregnant individuals to protect their infants: 45% would not recommend it and 43% would (the question was not previously asked in this form)
• 42% say they would be likely to recommend a newly approved monoclonal antibody injection for an infant and 35% would not—indicating no significant change since August.

The survey also found that more people know there is an FDA-approved vaccine against RSV for older adults (42%, up from 23% in August and 13% in June), though over one-half of those surveyed (53%) are not sure.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

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