University of California, Los Angeles: Factors causing low COVID vaccination rates have spilled over to flu vaccine rates in parts of U.S.

A new study by UCLA researchers reveals that adult flu vaccination rates have declined in U.S. states where COVID-19 vaccination rates are also low.

The research suggests declining trust in public health, indicating that COVID-19 vaccination behavior has spilled over to flu vaccination behavior. The finding is published as a letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“It is alarming that controversy surrounding COVID-19 vaccination may be undermining separate public health efforts that save thousands of lives each year,” said Dr. Richard Leuchter, the study’s lead author, a resident physician at UCLA Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Many Americans who never before declined a routine, potentially life-saving vaccine have started to do so.

“This supports what I have seen in my clinical practice and suggests that information and policies specific to COVID-19 vaccines may be eroding more general faith in medicine and our government’s role in public health.”

The authors used publicly available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collected through January 2022 to evaluate how flu vaccination rates changed during the pandemic based on statewide rates of COVID-19 vaccination. In the winter of 2021–22, the second flu season of the pandemic, flu vaccination rates dropped to 39.2% from 43.7% in states with below-average rates of COVID-19 vaccination.

Conversely, the states with the highest uptake of COVID-19 vaccines saw increases in average flu vaccination rates, to 52.8% from 49.0%.

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