The H1N1 flu vaccine has been rolling out more slowly than many public health officials had hoped. But a recent Fox News poll suggests that even when the vaccine becomes more widely available, concern over its safety may prevent many at-risk Americans from getting vaccinated.
Nearly equal numbers are more afraid of the side effects from the swine flu vaccine as are afraid of getting the flu itself (35 percent vaccine compared to 37 percent flu). Americans under age 35, who are more likely to catch and suffer from the effects of the swine flu, are more worried about the vaccine side effects compared to older adults (43-32 percent).
Many Americans also feel the testing of the swine flu vaccine was done too quickly so its safety is uncertain (40 percent). Only slightly more, 45 percent, feel the testing was done as quickly as possible while still making sure the vaccine is safe. People with children are more likely to say the testing was done too quickly than those without (43-38 percent).
The poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. from November 17 to November 18, 2009 among 900 registered voters and has a 3 percentage point margin of error.
The poll shows that while two out of three Americans are concerned about the spread of the swine flu (65 percent) somewhat less than one-third are "very" concerned (28 percent). Uncertainty about the safety of the vaccine combined with this measured concern about the virus itself could translate into lower vaccination rates than public health officials would like.
Despite vaccine shortages and public concern over its safety, more Americans approve of the federal government's handling of the swine flu outbreak than disapprove (50-37 percent).
This may be explained by the relatively few Americans who blame the Obama administration for the vaccine shortages (13 percent). More blame the companies who make the vaccine (55 percent). This is true of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.
Tami Buhr is a senior project manager at Opinion Dynamics Corporation