249: New Flu Vaccine Polling

Dr. Gillian SteelFisher, Director of Global Polling for the Harvard Opinion Research Program, reflects on her latest survey gauging public reaction to seasonal flu vaccines; Paula Tran, State Health Officer for the Wisconsin Department of Health...


Dr. Gillian SteelFisher, Director of Global Polling for the Harvard Opinion Research Program, reflects on her latest survey gauging public reaction to seasonal flu vaccines; Paula Tran, State Health Officer for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, discusses the work Dr. Greg Holzman is doing to  revamp the state’s Public Health Council as part of ASTHO’s Senior Leader Reserve Corps; an ASTHO report examines how flexible funding from the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant program supports innovation; and an ASTHO Blog Article says public health agencies have learned a lot about emergency preparedness during their response to COVID-19.

ASTHO Webpage: Senior Leader Reserve Corps

ASTHO Report: Flexible Funding to Support Public Health Innovation

ASTHO Blog Article: Preparing for the Next Infectious Disease Threat

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Transcript

ROBERT JOHNSON:

This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Thursday, August 25th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

 

GILLIAN STEELFISHER:

There've been a lot of questions about whether the dynamics of last year's unusual flu season—no fewer cases, later dates, lower vaccine match—now, whether that would lower enthusiasm for the vaccine this year, and whether the extended waves of COVID would raise the level of vaccine fatigue on top of that.

JOHNSON:

Dr. Gillian SteelFisher, director of global polling for the Harvard Opinion Research Program, on her latest survey, this one gauging public reaction to seasonal flu vaccines.

STEELFISHER:

And we found that actually only about a third of people even knew there were fewer cases last year, and it didn't seem to affect their plans for vaccination this coming year. Even fewer people knew the vaccine wasn't a great match last year, but—and this is really important—perceptions of the vaccine's effectiveness was related to people's plans to take the vaccine. So, it's really important that when public health agencies talk about flu vaccine match and effectiveness in a given year, that context is clear so there's not really a disruption in public understanding of the overall benefits of flu vaccine.

JOHNSON:

That, according to SteelFisher, is good news for public health.

STEELFISHER:

Adults in the U.S. predict that they're going to get the flu vaccine at about the same rate as prior years, with about half saying they're very likely to get it and another near 15% or so saying somewhat likely to get it.

JOHNSON:

SteelFisher recommends agencies develop vaccine messaging to highlight routine and convenience.

STEELFISHER:

So, for example, public health agencies need to message about the flu vaccine and it's like part of the way to get ready for the cold weather, you know, make sure your heating systems work and you're adding seasonal decorations, and oh, by the way, getting that flu vaccine.

JOHNSON:

She says the convenience angle also works with people unsure about the vaccine.

STEELFISHER:

You know, some folks don't think they're likely to get the flu and some have worries about side effects or something mistakenly that they can get the flu from the shot. But each of these reasons has pretty low endorsement with about less than 20% of those adults citing any one of them. And so, without deep serious concerns, that actually puts convenience backup at an important scale, right? It means that convenience can be the factor that pushes people to get it or not. And so, this is a key priority for public health agencies, making the vaccines easy to get, messaging to remind people how easy it is to get.

JOHNSON:

Next week, SteelFisher tells us what she's learned about COVID-19 boosters and what people think about getting the booster along with the flu shot.

 

Wisconsin is among the states and territories getting help from ASTHO Senior Leader Reserve Corps. The program matches public health leaders with agencies looking for extra help with their projects.

Wisconsin state health officer Paula Tran says Dr. Greg Holzman is working with the state to revamp its public health council.

PAULA TRAN:

He's really been serving as an advisor and consultant to our staff as they work with the executive committee of our public health council. So, he meets with our staff and with our council members to sort of be an active participant and advisor as they are working through these changes. And he's also been meeting with our chief medical officers and medical advisors to also impart advice in those spaces as well.

JOHNSON:

Tran says Holtman, a former state health official in Montana and Michigan, is helping her tackle a project that needed his expertise.

TRAN:

Well, it's tremendous to have multiple diverse strategic thinkers in many spaces. I think there is no shortage of things to do and work to be done. And when you can have somebody who has such high level experiences, that can come in and just—that is their only role, to be strategic and help a group move strategy and not get lost in the tactics and the operations.

JOHNSON:

Hear more about the Senior Leader Reserve Corps in a new episode of the Public Health Review podcast, coming soon everywhere you stream audio.

 

A new ASTHO report examines how flexible funding from the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant program supports innovation. Find out how Colorado, Michigan, North Dakota, and Rhode Island use the grants to address public health needs. There's a link to the full report in the show notes.

 

Also today, public health agencies have learned a lot about emergency preparedness during their response to COVID-19. Read more about resources, policies, and practices used during the pandemic in a new ASTHO blog article. There's a link in the show notes.

 

Finally this morning, just a quick reminder to make sure you get every episode of the newscast, simply follow us on your podcast player—it's that easy.

 

That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.  

Gillian SteelFisher PhD MSc

Senior Research Scientist, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Paula Tran MPH

State Health Officer and Division of Public Health Administrator, Wisconsin Department of Health Services