December 23, 2009

Americans Remain Concerned About Swine Flu Vaccine Safety

Despite the fact that at least 60 million Americans have been vaccinated against the swine flu, a number of people are still skeptical about the safety of the swine flu vaccine and hesitant to have their children inoculated, researchers said on Tuesday.

A poll was taken last week of 1,637 people aged 18 and older, after 100 million vaccine doses became available, reported Reuters.

Around 60 percent of parents polled said they intend to have their children vaccinated and 79 percent of adults said they will try to get the vaccines for themselves, but pollsters say that people remain reluctant and unresponsive to the government's call to get vaccinated.

"Thirty-five percent of parents say they are not going to get it and 60 percent say the major reason is safety," Robert Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health said in a telephone interview with Reuters.

"Our view is there just has to be more work on understanding how people think about the vaccine," he added.

Various studies into the matter have found that the H1N1 swine flu vaccine does not cause unusual side effects and Blendon said they do not yet understand what is causing so much apprehension.

According to an estimate by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to 50 million Americans have become ill with swine flu and it has resulted in 10,000 deaths.

This figure is still lower than the usual 36,000 deaths from the seasonal flu, but officials noted that swine flu infects and kills more young adults and children than seasonal flu.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) has contracts with five companies to make 251 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine.

In October, U.S. health authorities had acknowledged a swine flu vaccine shortage, and that manufacturers would likely not be able to meet demand until December. But President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that the vaccine is readily available, adding that he and his wife had been inoculated and that the public should follow suit.

With only a 3 percent margin for error, the Harvard poll showed that only 14 percent of adults had been vaccinated, but 79 percent said they would try, which has decreased from 92 percent who said they would in November.

HHS and CDC are currently even working to get the vaccine distributed in megastores like Wal-Mart.

Wal-mart is set to have swine flu clinics in 48 states by the end of next week, according to John Roehm with Mollen Immunization Clinics, which operates the clinics.

"We will see how demand is," Roehm said in a telephone interview. He said the demand has risen as state health departments call on the wider population to be vaccinated.

Vaccines have also started being offered at retail drug stores. Walgreen Co. is now administering the vaccine at more than 1,500 locations in 27 U.S. states, CVS Caremark Corp in 20 states and Washington, and Rite Aid has clinics in 12 states.


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