When it comes to flu shots, most Rhode Islanders are listening to the experts and getting their vaccinations.
The state ranked second in the percentage of people ages 6 months and older who got vaccinated during the 2012-13 flu season, according to analysisreleased Tuesday by Trust for America's Health, a nonpartisan health policy organization.
The analysis, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention FluVaxView data set, found that 56.7 percent of Rhode Islanders were vaccinated in 2012-13, the most recent year available for the CDC data.
Rhode Island — tied with South Dakota for second — was one of only 12 states with vaccination rates above 50 percent. Vaccination rates were highest in Massachusetts, which had a 57.5 percent rate, and lowest in Florida at 34.1 percent.
"It's easy to become complacent about the flu. We're used to it, it happens every year. So much so that we forget that it is largely preventable through a quick shot— which I might add is now free to most Americans thanks to the Affordable Care Act," a release quoted Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust For America’s Health. "The flu isn't just an uncomfortable inconvenience, it is deadly and costly. And millions of Americans do not even have paid sick leave, so they either go to work sick — infecting others — or do not get paid."
Rates are lowest among adults ages 18 to 64 years. That group has a nationwide vaccination rate of 35.7 percent, compared to 56.6 percent for children ages 6 months to 17 years old and 66.2 percent of seniors age 65 and older.
Adults in Rhode Island are also less likely to be vaccinated. The state ranked fourth in vaccinations for 18- to 64-year-olds with a rate of 44.9 percent.
"The trend of low vaccination rates among younger adults is particularly troubling this year, when they are more at risk than usual for the effects of the H1N1 strain of flu that's circulating," the release quoted Levi.
Rhode Island is now in the midst of “widespread” seasonal flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Jan. 8, the most recent date available, 51 influenza-related hospitalizations have been reported in Rhode Island this season, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health.