News Release

Nearly Four in Ten Say Their Households Were Sick with COVID-19, the Flu, or RSV Recently Even as Most People Say They Aren’t Too Worried About Getting Seriously Ill

In virus season, 46% of adults say they’re likely to take at least one protective measure, such as masking; immunocompromised people are inclined to do more

Booster update remains modest; half of those already boosted are waiting for updated CDC guidelines to get another dose

Nearly four in ten (38%) people say their households were affected by this winter’s triple threat of viruses, with someone getting sick with the flu, COVID-19, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and nearly half (46%) say the news of these three viruses spreading has made them more likely to wear masks or take other precautions to avoid getting sick, the latest KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey finds.

At the same time, almost three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the public says they are “not too” or “not at all” worried about getting seriously ill from the virus (69%), though 31% still say they are worried. That’s somewhat more than say the same about the flu (26%) or RSV (25%).

The flu affected the largest share of households over the past month or so (27%), with smaller shares saying someone in their homes got sick with COVID-19 (15%) or RSV (10%).

A relatively small share (14%) of adults in households affected by COVID-19 say they tried to get Paxlovid, the anti-viral prescription pill used to treat COVID-19. Similarly, among those households affected by the flu, 16% say they tried to get Tamiflu, an antiviral prescription medicine used to treat the flu.

Amid media reports of shortages of over-the-counter medicines often used to treat symptoms of these ailments, the survey finds that 75% of adults in affected households tried to obtain over-the-counter medicines such as Tylenol or cough syrup, including about one in five (representing 6% of all adults) who say they had difficulties getting that medicine.

News about the three viruses also made some people more likely to take preventive measures such as wearing a mask in public (31%), avoiding large gatherings (26%), traveling less (20%), or avoiding eating indoors at restaurants (18%).

People who say they are immunocompromised are more likely than those who aren’t to take many of those extra precautions. In addition, Black and Hispanic adults are more likely than White adults, and Democrats are more likely than Republicans, to say they are more likely to modify their behavior.

Nearly 3 in 10 Adults Now Say They’ve Gotten Updated Bivalent Booster Shot

As the federal government prepares to end its public health emergency declaration, the latest survey finds nearly three in ten (28%) adults report having received an updated COVID-19 bivalent vaccine booster shot, up slightly from December (22%). The increase largely reflects a shift in booster rates among Republicans (from 12% in December to 20% in January, though Democrats still are twice as likely to have gotten the updated booster (39%).

Among high-risk groups, nearly half (47%) of adults at least 65 years old, and about a third (36%) of those who are immunocompromised, say they have already received a bivalent booster dose.

Those who already received a bivalent booster are eager to get an additional booster in the future. The vast majority (86%) say that getting another shot is important to them, and just over half (54%) say they are waiting for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue new guidelines to make them eligible for another booster.

On the other side, vaccinated adults who have not gotten the bivalent booster yet cite a number of reasons for why they haven’t done so.  Half (51%) say they feel they have enough protection from their initial vaccination or a prior infection, and nearly as many (44%) say they don’t think they need the new booster.

Smaller shares say that they have been too busy or have not had the time to get the updated booster (29%), that they had bad side effects from a previous dose (19%), or that they cannot afford to take time off work to get the shot and deal with side effects from the vaccine (15%).

Designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at KFF, the survey was conducted from January 17-24, 2023, online and by telephone among a nationally representative sample of 1,234 U.S. adults, in English and in Spanish. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for the full sample. For results based on other subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.

The KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor is an ongoing research project tracking the public’s attitudes and experiences with COVID-19 vaccinations. Using a combination of surveys and qualitative research, this project tracks the dynamic nature of public opinion as vaccine development and distribution unfold, including vaccine confidence and acceptance, information needs, trusted messengers and messages, as well as the public’s experiences with vaccination.

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The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.