Rhode Island children had the highest flu vaccination coverage rate in the country during the 2017-2018 flu season, an increase of two percentage points from the previous season, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, Rhode Island also saw a decrease in the flu immunization rate for adults during this period.

“Flu vaccination is the single best way to protect yourself against the flu,” said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). “The flu can have serious health consequences for anyone, including young, otherwise healthy adults. Getting our adult flu vaccination rate as high as our childhood flu vaccination rate is critical to preventing flu-related hospitalizations and deaths in Rhode Island. When someone gets a flu shot, they are not only protecting themselves. They are also protecting the people they love by preventing the spread of the flu at home. We all have a role to play in keeping those around us and our community healthy and safe.”

During the 2017-2018 flu season, 76% of Rhode Island children were vaccinated against the flu, compared to the national average of 58%. Among adults, Rhode Island had a 44% flu vaccination rate, compared to the previous year, when 51% of adults were immunized against the flu. Younger adults (people from 18 to 49 years of age) had the lowest flu vaccination rate among all adults. The year-to-year decrease in Rhode Island mirrors a national trend. Between the 2016-2017 flu season and the 2017-2018 flu season, the national flu vaccination rate for adults decreased from 43% to 37%.

Last flu season was the most severe that Rhode Island has experienced in almost a decade. The flu sent 1,390 Rhode Islanders to the hospital and resulted in 60 deaths, compared to 1,216 hospitalizations and 33 deaths the previous year. The CDC estimates that last flu season, 960,000 people were hospitalized and 79,000 people died because of the flu.

Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot every year. Vaccination is particularly important for the elderly, young children, pregnant women, healthcare workers, and people with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or cancer).

Rhode Islanders can get vaccinated at a doctor’s office, a school or community clinic, or a pharmacy (adults only). For a list of school clinics, visit health.ri.gov/flu or health.ri.gov/gripe (Spanish).

These data were gathered through the National Immunization Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The coverage rates produced by the National Immunization Survey and BRFSS are estimates. Because a random sample of telephone numbers is taken, these rates have a margin of error. Due to statistical uncertainty (i.e. sampling error) in the estimates, Rhode Island’s true vaccination rates may be slightly higher or lower.