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The public speaks to healthcare providers: Get your swine flu shots!

October 1, 2009 |  2:44 pm

Pig The American public may be reluctant to get vaccinated against the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus, but they are certain about one thing -- they want their healthcare providers to get immunized. A new survey by researchers at the University of Michigan's Mott Children's Hospital found that 87% of 2,365 adults polled believed that healthcare workers should be required to be vaccinated. "The public clearly expects health care workers to lead by example," said Dr. Matthew Davis, director of the poll.

Only 38% of the healthcare workers, however, said that they were likely to do so. Their reasons were confusing, at best. Many said they did not need to be vaccinated because there are drugs -- particularly the antiviral drug Tamiflu -- to treat the illness if it develops. Others said that they planned to get the seasonal flu vaccine and that it would protect them from swine flu.

The latter rationale is completely wrong. Studies have shown that vaccination for seasonal flu provides no protection against swine flu whatsoever. "In addition, relying on medications to treat H1N1 flu is a gamble" because resistance to the drug is likely to develop and there may not be adequate supplies if a severe outbreak occurs, Davis said.

The Times receives many e-mails from anti-vaccine folks arguing that healthcare workers are refusing to get vaccinated "because they know something about the vaccine that the public doesn't." What really seems to be the case, however, is that they know less about the flu than most citizens.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II