1 in 3 parents would decline swine flu shotATLANTA — As the first wave of swine flu vaccine crosses the country, more than a third of parents don’t want their kids vaccinated, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.
ATLANTA — As the first wave of swine flu vaccine crosses the country, more than a third of parents don’t want their kids vaccinated, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.
Some parents say they are concerned about side effects from the new vaccine — even though nothing serious has turned up in tests so far — while others say swine flu doesn’t amount to any greater health threat than seasonal flu.
Jackie Shea of Newtown, Conn., the mother of a 5-year-old boy named Emmett, says the vaccine is too new and too untested.
“I will not be first in line in October to get him vaccinated,” she said in an interview last month. “We’re talking about putting an unknown into him. I can’t do that.”
The AP poll found that 38 percent of parents said they were unlikely to give permission for their kids to be vaccinated at school.
The belief that the new vaccine could be risky is one federal health officials have been fighting from the start, and they plan an unprecedented system of monitoring for side effects.
They note that swine flu vaccine is made the same way as seasonal flu vaccines that have been used for years. And no scary side effects have turned up in tests on volunteers, including children.
On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appealed for widespread inoculation against swine flu, vouching unconditionally for the vaccine: “We know it’s safe and secure.”
The AP poll, conducted Oct. 1-5, found 72 percent of those surveyed are worried about side effects, although more than half say that wouldn’t stop them from getting the vaccine to protect their kids from the new flu.
Giving flu shots to schoolchildren is also an idea many parents are still getting used to. It was only last year that the government recommendation kicked in for virtually all children to get it. Seasonal flu vaccination rates for children last year ranged from about 48 percent for toddlers to about 9 percent for teens.
It traditionally takes a while for parents to learn about and accept a new vaccine and years for immunization rates to grow, said Dr. Matthew Davis, a University of Michigan Medical School associate professor who has overseen polling on flu issues.
Special swine flu vaccination clinics at schools are being planned in many states. Children are the main spreaders of infectious disease, and if large numbers are coming down with swine flu, there are ripple effects for everyone else.
The AP poll found 59 percent are likely to let their kids be vaccinated at school. But the kinds of concerns voiced by parents could put a dent in public health efforts.
Some, like Shea, recall the 1976 swine flu immunization campaign that vaccinated 40 million Americans against an epidemic that never materialized. Worse, many who got the shots back then filed injury claims blaming health problems on the vaccine, with some reporting a paralyzing condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Health officials did not find evidence the vaccine caused the condition, noting it occurs naturally anyway and would be bound to show up in such a large group. Many people were unjustifiably blaming all sorts of health problems on the vaccine, some health experts believe.
Health officials and many parents are strong believers in the vaccine, and warn about the potential dangers of a virus that has caused at least 9,000 U.S. hospitalizations and at least 600 deaths, including 60 children.
The AP-GfK poll was based on a nationally representative sample of 1,003 adults age 18 or older, contacted by telephone on land lines and cell phones. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for all adults, 5.2 percentage points for parents.