Nearly half of parents now don't intend to have their children vaccinated against the swine flu virus – and among those who do plan to get the vaccine, more than half say they've been deterred by supply problems, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds.
Others, meanwhile, continue to steer clear as a result of undiminished skepticism about the safety of the vaccine itself. Despite federal reassurances, a third of Americans say they're not confident it's safe, much like the 30 percent who said so last month. And 66 percent of adults say they themselves don't plan to get vaccinated – slightly up from 62 percent last month.
Among parents, 14 percent say they've had their child or children vaccinated, up 10 points from a month ago, but still a relatively small share of the population. A much larger group, 45 percent, don't plan to have their children vaccinated – a slight increase from the 39 percent who said so in mid-October.
BARRIERS – Availability is one barrier: Among parents who still plan to get the vaccine for their children, 52 percent say they've already tried to do so, but found that it wasn't available. The rest haven't tried yet but say they will in the future.
And there are safety doubts. Just 24 percent of adults are "very" confident the vaccine is safe; as noted, more, 33 percent, aren't confident in its safety. (It's about the same for each among parents). Seeking to counter such perceptions, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg sent a letter to every physician in the country last week, reiterating that the swine flu vaccine is made the same way as the seasonal flu vaccine, and there's no reason to think it's less safe.
The concerns, nonetheless, are largely specific to swine flu vaccine. Ten percent of Americans in this survey say they're not confident in the safety of any vaccine. That, itself, presumably is a concern for public health specialists; regardless, more than twice as many, 23 percent, say they're dubious, not of vaccines in general, but of the swine flu vaccine specifically.
There are other barriers, including insurance status, education levels and age. Intention to get vaccinated (or having done so) is especially low, 18 percent, among adults who lack health insurance. It peaks at 48 percent among the most highly educated Americans (those who've done postgraduate work), compared with 31 percent of those with less schooling. And it's a bit lower among those under age 30 (likewise, among 18- to 24-year-olds, an age bracket included in high-risk groups) than among their elders.
DISCONNECT – This poll also shows something of a disconnect between acceptance of the government's warnings about swine flu and vaccination levels. Sixty-two percent of Americans reject a suggestion the government has exaggerated the dangers of a swine flu epidemic – almost identical to what it was when Gallup asked the same question in August. Far fewer, though, either intend to get vaccinated themselves (26 percent), or have done so (7 percent).
Still, views of the warnings are a factor in planning to get vaccinated. People who think the government has exaggerated the dangers of swine flu are only half as likely as others to plan to get vaccinated, or to have done so already.
On the other side of the equation, as was the case a month ago, views on the safety of the vaccine are an even stronger factor in deciding whether or not to get vaccinated against swine flu. People who think the vaccine's safe are nine times likelier to plan to get it themselves, and more than five times likelier to plan to get it for their children (or, in both cases to have done so already).
METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Nov. 12-15, 2009, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results for the full sample have a 3.5-point error margin. Click here for a detailed description of sampling error. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.