NEW YORK -- A national telephone survey of 595 parents conducted by RoperASW on behalf of Wyeth and MedImmune Vaccines, Inc. to assess perceptions about influenza finds that 8 out of 10 parents with children younger than 18 years of age living at home consider the flu to be a significant disruption to the household. Results also show that an overwhelming majority of parents surveyed -- 85 percent -- were unable to complete normal, day-to-day activities or had to cancel plans altogether when a household member came down with the flu.
Although underestimated, the flu is a recurrent epidemic infectious disease that causes approximately 38 million missed school days and approximately 70 million lost workdays each year. In fact, when polled about the health conditions that have caused children to miss the most school days in a year, the parents surveyed named the flu second only to the common cold. Once the flu hits a household, according to the survey, it takes nearly two weeks to run its course, causing parents to lose approximately three days from work and children approximately four days of school. Despite this, a separate survey finds that 63 percent of parents are not planning to get their children vaccinated against the flu this year.
According to the CDC, children have the highest rates of influenza infection of any age group, yet they are rarely vaccinated against it. Staats Abrams, senior vice president of RoperASW, stated, "Results from the survey show that influenza vaccination of children is not a generally practiced preventive measure -- 64 percent of parents surveyed have never had any of their children vaccinated against the flu."
However, while nearly two thirds of parents surveyed had never vaccinated their children against influenza, they perceived that their children were at a much greater risk for catching the flu than adults, with school children in two age groups -- 5 to 11 and 12 to 17 -- being most at risk. In addition, approximately half the parents surveyed (53 percent) believed a child was the first one to bring the flu home. In fact, studies support this theory and have shown that school-aged children are often the first to be infected by the flu, followed by preschool-aged children and adults.
Each year in the U.S., an estimated 17 million to 50 million people, many of whom are otherwise healthy children and adults, are infected with the influenza virus. Influenza results in approximately $3 billion to $15 billion annually in direct and indirect costs.
Because the influenza virus is airborne, it is easily transmitted, placing nearly everyone at risk for exposure. Areas where people gather, such as schools, homes, and offices, are likely locations for catching the flu. The most effective way to help prevent influenza is vaccination. Influenza vaccine is available as either an injection or nasal mist.
Many healthcare professionals immunize against the flu between October and November, although vaccination can be beneficial even beyond December. Flu season usually peaks between December and March.
RoperASW conducted two separate studies in 2002 and 2003. The purpose of the first study in 2002 was to ask parents about the following:
* Their concern about the flu
* Perceived risk of flu occurrence
* Overall impact of flu on the household
* Specific effect of flu on their children's activities
* Preventive steps taken
* Attitudes toward flu vaccination
* Reported rates of flu vaccination among children and parents
The second study, conducted in 2003, was to better understand flu vaccination plans for families during the 2003-2004 flu season.
The findings presented in this report are based on two separate telephone interviews with a random cross-section of parents. The first study questioned 315 parents and the second study questioned 280 parents with children under 18 years of age living at home. The findings in this report are statistically projectable to this population with a margin of sampling error of + or - 6 percentage points. Subgroup analyses will have a larger margin of sampling error. Interviewing was conducted for the first survey from April 12 to April 14, 2002. The second survey was conducted from August 15 to August 17, 2003. Responses were weighted by demographic factors, including sex, age, geographic region, and race to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the study universe.
The survey was sponsored by Wyeth and MedImmune Vaccines, Inc.
RoperASW is a leading global marketing research and consulting firm.