Blog | Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Health workers, public may refuse H1N1 vaccines

Health care workers will balance the risks of H1N1 flu against the novelty of vaccines developed to combat it, according to research published in Emerging Health Threats Journal.

Canadian researchers conducted 11 focus groups (eight community groups and three for health care workers) in Vancouver asking participants how willing they would be to accept a new vaccine in case of a pandemic. They found that respondents were reluctant to get vaccinated against an illness they perceived as mild.

"Participants were very concerned that in a pandemic, a vaccine would be brought to market without sufficient testing for safety," researchers wrote. Many among all 11 focus groups believed that hand washing, social distancing or a good diet conferred protection. In the words of one health care worker: "A lot, well all of us probably practice basic body, blood, fluid precautions, right? ... So, we're equipped in that way to handle new diseases. We know how to protect ourselves. At least we think we do."

Similarly, health care workers are balancing the severity of the disease vs. any potential risk in a new vaccine. One health care worker told researchers: "Information would be key and I'd have to weigh the cost and the benefit of ... I'd have to know what would be the implications of getting the disease. And what would be the implications of getting the vaccine."

Meanwhile, a panel of U.S. presidential advisors finds looked at a plausible planning scenario--not a prediction--that H1N1 could infect 60 million to 120 million Americans (20%-40% of the population), killing 30,000 to 90,000 people. And the Washington Post looks at history for a lesson from the flu outbreak of 1957.