Influenza is a globally occurring viral respiratory infection that can lead to hospitalizations and death. An influenza outbreak can interfere with combat readiness in a military setting, as the infection can incapacitate soldiers. Vaccination remains the most effective tool to prevent and mitigate seasonal influenza. Although influenza vaccinations for U.S. Army soldiers can be monitored through military health systems, those systems cannot capture DoD civilians and Army dependents who may not use military health services. This study aims to gauge flu vaccine uptake and perceptions in U.S. Army civilians and dependents.
An online survey was e-mailed to civilian and dependent enrollees of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. The survey contained 24 questions pertaining to demographics, vaccine history, history of the flu, and beliefs toward vaccines. Chi-square tests, t-tests, and logistic regressions were performed to investigate the association between demographic, behavior, and belief factors with vaccine uptake. Free-text answers were coded and categorized by themes.
Over 70% of respondents were vaccinated for the flu. There were differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated respondents regarding their perceptions of barriers to vaccination, benefits of the flu vaccine, severity of flu symptoms, and personal risk of getting ill with the flu. After controlling for confounders, flu vaccination in the previous season and healthcare worker status were associated with increased vaccine uptake, while perceived barriers to influenza vaccination were associated with decreased vaccine uptake.
Flu vaccine uptake may be increased by increasing access to vaccination, promoting vaccination and addressing concerns at the provider level, and engaging positively framed public messaging. Increasing flu vaccine uptake is of particular importance as the flu season approaches during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic.