Aug. 25, 2009 -- Less than half of health care workers surveyed in Hong Kong
intend to get vaccinated against swine flu, citing uncertainty about its
effectiveness and possible side effects, a new study indicates.
And another new study shows that health care workers and some people in the
general public may refuse to get immunized or vaccinate their kids, fearing
that risks of a novel vaccine could outweigh benefits.
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Researchers of both scientific studies say vaccination is critical, one of
the most important ways to reduce illness and prevent death associated with
pandemic flu complications.
The Hong Kong study is published by BMJ. The other study, based on
analysis of 85 participants of focus group discussions in Canada, is published
in Emerging Health Threats Journal.
Authors of the Hong Kong study describe their findings as surprising, given
the fact that SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) had such a huge impact
in Hong Kong, and note their information was gathered at the same time as the
World Health Organization escalated its alert for swine flu to phase 5.
The SARS virus outbreak of 2003 infected more than 8,000 people worldwide
and caused nearly 800 deaths.
Flu and Health Care Workers
Josette Chor, BSc, PhD of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and
colleagues of the BMJ study say that campaigns are needed to encourage
vaccination of health professionals. The researchers gathered survey data from
2,255 health care workers at 31 hospitals. They were first surveyed about
willingness to get a pre-pandemic vaccine against avian flu (H5N1) when the WHO
influenza pandemic alert level was at phase 3 in early 2009. In May when the
level had been raised to 5, they were asked about willingness to get a vaccine
against the new H1N1 swine flu.
In the first survey, 28% of respondents said they’d be willing to get
vaccinated for pandemic flu. The authors say “no significant changes in the
level of intention to accept pre-pandemic H5N1 vaccine were observed,” despite
the escalation to phase 5 of the swine flu pandemic.
About 48% of respondents said they’d take the shots against swine flu at
phase 5, but many still said they worried about side effects of vaccines and
“To our knowledge, this is the largest study conducted to assess the
willingness of healthcare workers to accept pre-pandemic influenza vaccination,
and it provides important information on barriers to vaccination,” the authors
Concerns Over Vaccine Safety
For the Canadian study, Natalie Henrich, PhD, MPH, of the University of
British Columbia and doctoral student Bev Holmes at Simon Fraser University
studied 85 people in 11 focus groups in Vancouver in 2006-2007. Participants in
the Vancouver focus groups included university students, adult Canadians,
parents, and health care workers.