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New poll shows Americans' confidence wanes in Obama's bid to halt H1N1 swine flu pandemic

With the H1N1 swine flu continuing to spread faster than the government's creaky distribution system can get out the vaccine, Americans' confidence in the Obama administration's ability to prevent a nationwide pandemic of the deadly illness is crumbling.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Poll of 1,018 adult Americans finds that a shrinking number are very or somewhat confident about the Democratic administration's plans, while those lacking confidence are increasing.

Although much of the popular media's attention has been devoted to the congressional struggle and vote over costly healthcare reform legislation — and then last week's Ft. Hood shooting that killed 13 and wounded dozens — the threat of a massive pandemic claiming hundreds of lives looms as the kind of public disaster for Obama that the Bush administration's poor preparedness was after Hurricane Katrina.

Last month Obama declared a national emergency over the H1N1 flu potential.

But steady delays in manufacturing the vaccine and the federal government's distribution have continued. Deliveries of millions of doses have gone way beyond the original schedule. So late are deliveries that some medical experts say an epidemic will be well underway or over before all the doses become available in late December.

GOP Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, never a fan of big new government programs, has called this year's H1N1 swine flu preparations a "total failure." His belief seems to be spreading like a virus as well, with several polls showing a majority of Americans now have no intention of getting the doses, even if and when they become available.

Now, the new CNN Poll, taken Oct. 30-Nov. 1 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points, finds that the proportion of Americans who are very confident that the Obama White House can prevent a pandemic has fallen from a meager 15% around Labor Day to a worse 11% now. The proportion of those feeling "somewhat confident" has dropped from 44% to 40%.

Meanwhile, the proportion of those lacking any confidence has jumped from 40% to 49%.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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