There is wide variability in what the U.S. public knows about the seasonal flu and COVID-19, but some facts are much more strongly associated with an individual’s vaccination behavior.
For several years, the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s nationally representative Annenberg Public Health and Knowledge Survey (ASAPH) has assessed public knowledge of vital health information, including how to prevent and treat the seasonal flu and COVID-19, two of the three illnesses in last year’s “tripledemic” outbreak that overwhelmed some health care facilities (the third was RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus).
Even after taking education into account, survey data reveal that the answers to just eight questions are better than many others at predicting whether a person has been vaccinated against the flu or is willing to get an annual COVID-19 vaccine if recommended by public health officials.
“Knowledge about the nature, effects, and prevention against a potentially deadly virus is valuable in its own right,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC). “But some knowledge is more associated with vaccination than other knowledge.”
APPC research director Dan Romer says the ASAPH surveys, which were administered with a nationally representative panel of U.S. adults, posed two dozen questions to assess public health knowledge of the flu and COVID-19. All of those questions were related to forms of vaccination acceptance—either with having received a flu shot or expressing a willingness to get an annual COVID-19 vaccine. “We’ve picked the eight questions—four for the flu and four for COVID—that had the strongest ability to independently predict taking either action,” Romer says.
The survey data come from the 10th and 12th waves of the Annenberg Science and Public Health Knowledge Survey (ASAPH), a nationally representative panel of U.S. adults first empaneled in April 2021 that was conducted for the Annenberg Public Policy Center by SSRS, an independent market research company.
The flu questions were asked in the 10th wave of the survey, which was conducted Jan. 10-16, 2023, among 1,657 U.S. adults. Individuals who got at least three questions right about the flu vaccine are more likely than average to say they had received a flu shot in the 2022-23 flu season.
The COVID-19 questions were asked in the 12th wave of the survey, which was fielded in August 2023. Individuals who got at least three questions right about the COVID-19 vaccine are more likely than average to say they were very or somewhat willing to get a yearly COVID-19 vaccination if the CDC were to recommend it.
Read more at Annenberg Public Policy Center.