With the U.S. experiencing its most severe whooping cough outbreak in 50 years1 and an aging baby boomer population placing thousands more people at higher risk for shingles every day, Americans may be thinking about more than just flu with the start of influenza season in early October. According to the new Walgreens Immunization Index, 71 percent of adults surveyed feel being up-to-date on immunizations is very important to maintaining good health, more so than an annual doctor visit (68 percent). However, the survey also unveils a number of trends suggesting an occasional disconnect between consumer perception and consumer behavior when it comes to immunizations.

The Index shows an overwhelming majority of adults surveyed, 89 percent, believe that vaccinations help protect people from viruses and preventable diseases. Yet, more than 40 percent don't know which immunizations they may need or even when they last received certain vaccines routinely recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In examining consumer behavior, motivators and overall awareness, the biggest motivator for people to consider the whooping cough vaccine, for example, would be an outbreak in their city or community (60 percent). Yet, only 31 percent of respondents are aware of the status of reported cases or outbreaks in their area.

"This reinforces the need for adults to have a regular dialogue with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse practitioner or other clinician, regardless of their health condition," said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness. "Our network of 27,000 immunizing pharmacists, as well as Take Care Clinic nurse practitioners, continues to educate patients about immunizations as an important preventive health measure that can help people get, stay and live well - not just during flu season, but year-round."

The Walgreens Immunization Index further examined adults' immunization behaviors, knowledge and response to information from health care providers, news media and other external sources.

Whooping Cough

The CDC has reported more than 29,000 cases of whooping cough through Sept. 20 of this year, totaling 10,000 more cases than reported in all of 2011.

When asked how likely they would be to follow a health care provider's recommendation for an immunization for tetanus, flu, pneumonia, meningitis, shingles and whooping cough, only 55 percent said they'd be very likely to adhere to the recommendation for whooping cough - the lowest percentage of the vaccines listed. Other survey findings for whooping cough/pertussis include:

  • Nearly 1-in-4 adults (23 percent) know someone who has had the illness
  • Sixty-one percent of adults say they've never been immunized against whooping cough
  • Of those immunized, more than one-third (37 percent) say it's been more than 10 years since their last pertussis/tdap immunization or booster. Another 20 percent don't know when they last received the vaccine
  • Of those immunized, more than one-third (34 percent) say they've been vaccinated for whooping cough in the past three years - including 15 percent who say they'd have the immunization in the past year
  • Thirty percent of adults surveyed aren't very familiar with whooping cough/pertussis


Each day, about 10,000 baby boomers in the U.S. turn 65 years old2, putting them at greater risk for shingles, a painful skin rash and potentially debilitating condition that is a re-emergence of dormant chicken pox virus. Half of shingles cases occur in men and women 60 years or older, the CDC says, and nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) over age 65 know of someone who has had the virus. Of seniors over 65, 30 percent say they have received the Zostavax vaccine that can help prevent shingles.

Still, some misconceptions exist. The Walgreens Immunization Index found that just 1-in-8 (13 percent) adults surveyed believe they are likely to get shingles at some point in their lifetime. The CDC says 1-in-3 adults will develop shingles. The survey also shows:

  • More than two-thirds (67 percent) incorrectly believe they can help prevent shingles through preventive measures including hand-washing or by getting plenty of sleep (59 percent). The Zostavax vaccine is the only preventive measure for shingles; however it is also helpful for people to maintain a strong immune system, as weakened immune systems and stress are among the primary causes of the virus
  • Half of seniors over 65 surveyed are extremely familiar with the shingles vaccine

The CDC recommends the Zostavax vaccine for anyone 60 years and older. Anyone can get the shot to help reduce their risk, but shingles is most common in those over 50 years old.

Influenza and other findings

October marks the start of flu season in the U.S., and historically, the busiest month for flu shots. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of those surveyed say they would be likely to follow a health care provider's recommendation for a flu shot. Of those who received a flu shot during the H1N1 pandemic year of 2009, 85 percent say they have gotten a flu shot in the seasons since.

Other general survey findings include:

  • Nearly three-fourths of respondents (73 percent) believe much of the information about vaccines is credible and trustworthy
  • Most people are getting their health information from doctors/nurses (51 percent) and online sources (42 percent). However, few are turning to the newspaper (8 percent) or television (8 percent) as a health resource

"This season, Walgreens and Take Care Clinics introduced an immunizations assessment3, which is free with every flu shot, in large part due to our recent findings that have shown a general lack of awareness among a majority of adults when it comes to immunizations," said Alan E. London, M.D., chief medical officer for Take Care Clinics. "We've demonstrated that people value being able to get immunizations and other services when it's most convenient for them, as nearly one-third of flu shots at Walgreens and Take Care Clinics were administered during evenings, weekends and holidays4. The important thing now is to make sure people are getting the health care information and services they need."


The telephone survey was conducted by Directions Research, Inc. from Aug. 29 - Sept. 15, 2012, with a nationally representative sample of 600 U.S. adults over the age of 18. The sample was balanced to match U.S. census data for gender and age breaks.

About Walgreens

As the nation's largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2012 sales of $72 billion, Walgreens (NYSE: WAG) (NASDAQ: WAG) (www.walgreens.com) vision is to become America's first choice for health and daily living. Each day, Walgreens provides nearly 6 million customers the most convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice in communities across America. Walgreens scope of pharmacy services includes retail, specialty, infusion, medical facility and mail service, along with respiratory services. These services improve health outcomes and lower costs for payers including employers, managed care organizations, health systems, pharmacy benefit managers and the public sector. The company operates 7,930 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Take Care Health Systems is a Walgreens subsidiary that is the largest and most comprehensive manager of worksite health and wellness centers and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 700 locations throughout the country.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

3 The assessment is not for diagnostic or treatment purposes. Information provided by Walgreens does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

4 2010-2011 flu season

Jim Cohn, (847) 315-2950