Thursday, October 08, 2009

Poll Finds 1/3 of Parents Oppose Swine Flu Immunizations

I'm not particularly shocked by this study, which claims that one third of parents oppose immunizing their kids against swine flu. The reasons may vary - from thinking that the swine flu isn't any more dangerous than the regular flu or that the vaccine itself isn't sufficiently tested, but the rationales are mostly due to the lack of information about the vaccine and the threat posed by influenza than objective opposition based on facts about the vaccine.
The AP poll found that 38 percent of parents said they were unlikely to give permission for their kids to be vaccinated at school.

The belief that the new vaccine could be risky is one federal health officials have been fighting from the start, and they plan an unprecedented system of monitoring for side effects.

They note that swine flu vaccine is made the same way as seasonal flu vaccines that have been used for years. And no scary side effects have turned up in tests on volunteers, including children.

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appealed for widespread inoculation against swine flu, vouching unconditionally for the vaccine: "We know it's safe and secure."

The AP poll, conducted Oct. 1-5, found 72 percent of those surveyed are worried about side effects, although more than half say that wouldn't stop them from getting the vaccine to protect their kids from the new flu.

Giving flu shots to schoolchildren is also an idea many parents are still getting used to. It was only last year that the government recommendation kicked in for virtually all children to get it. Seasonal flu vaccination rates for children last year ranged from about 48 percent for toddlers to about 9 percent for teens.
The swine flu vaccine (H1N1) is based on the same seasonal flu vaccine that is updated annually by scientists who make best guess estimates of the top influenza strains that are likely to be spread during the upcoming flu season. The H1N1 vaccine is made using the same processes as the seasonal flu vaccine.

Influenza kills 30,000 to 40,000 people in the US annually. Swine flu was found to be highly communicable, even if the mortality rates weren't different than the seasonal flu in the US. Influenza can affect anywhere from 10-25% of the American public, which means that it can have a serious effect on the productivity of the US economy as well as overburden the health care delivery system. Immunizations can reduce the severity of the influenza outbreaks, and prevent widespread disruptions to school routines, as was the case in New York City last year, where a dozen schools were shuttered because of outbreaks among the student population.

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