Germ-spreading school children are expected to be the focus of a massive U.S. vaccination campaign against the novel H1N1 flu. But if their parents are hearing the sounding of the tocsin at all, they're not buying it, says a new national survey.
A poll conducted by the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital found that only 4 in 10 parents said they would get their children immunized against the H1N1 virus--even as 54% indicated they will get their kids vaccinated against regular seasonal flu. Among those that said they do not intend to have their kids vaccinated against H1N1, almost half--46% indicated they're not worried about their child becoming ill with the pandemic virus. One in five told surveyers they do not believe the H1N1 flu is serious.
Skepticism about the new vaccine among parents has drawn on many old, and a few new fears, according to a recent look at the subject in The Times.
There were differences along racial and ethnic groups in parents' responses. More than half of Latino parents said they will bring their kids to get vaccinated against H1N1. Among white parents, 38% said they would do so. African American parents were least inclined to vaccinate: 30% said they planned to do so.
About half of the parents who planned to take a pass on the H1N1 flu shot for their kids expressed concern about possible side effects of the vaccine.
The chatter about seasonal flu and novel H1N1 flu and their relative virulence has certainly confused parents, the survey suggests. Half of respondents said they believe that, for children, seasonal and H1N1 flu pose roughly equivalent risks.
"That perception may not match the actual risks," says Dr. Matthew Davis, a University of Michigan professor of pediatrics and internal medicine and director of the poll. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that while serious complications of seasonal flu appear to spare most kids and strike the elderly and very young most heavily, the novel H1N1 flu appears to hit children and young adults hardest.
Parents who believe that H1N1 flu will be worse for children were most likely to say they will have their own children vaccinated. In a news release accompanying the poll results, Davis said that public health officials wishing to maximize vaccination rates among school children need to communicate clearly to their parents that kids are at relatively greater risk of becoming seriously ill with the novel flu strain if they get it.
-- Melissa Healy