WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Days before the swine flu vaccine becomes available, more than half of U.S. adults say they will get the vaccine for themselves and 75 percent will get it for their children, according to a survey released on Friday.
Forty percent said they would not get the H1N1 vaccine, the team at the Harvard School of Public Health found.
“These findings suggest that public health officials need to be prepared for a surge in demand for the H1N1 vaccine if the H1N1 flu becomes more severe,” said Harvard’s Robert Blendon, who led the study.
The survey conflicts with one published earlier this week by Consumer Reports showing only 35 percent of Americans would definitely have their children vaccinated.
The Harvard researchers polled 1,042 U.S. adults for what they said was a representative sample of national opinion late last month.
The poll results suggest more people would get a swine flu vaccine than usually get vaccinated against seasonal influenza in the United States, where flu kills an estimated 36,000 mostly elderly people a year.
H1N1 swine flu was declared a pandemic in June and it has circulated globally ever since.
Companies have been rushing to make and distribute vaccines for H1N1 and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the first 600,000 doses will arrive in cities, states and counties that ordered them next week.
The U.S. government has ordered about 250 million doses from five companies — Sanofi-Aventis SA, CSL Ltd, AstraZeneca Plc’s MedImmune unit, Novartis AG and GlaxoSmithKline.
The vaccines will trickle in at a rate of about 20 million doses a week, and officials are unsure how many Americans will actually get them. The U.S. government is providing them for free but clinics and retailers may charge to administer them.
The picture is further complicated by seasonal flu vaccination, which started last month.
A report from the Trust for Americas Health this week predicted that 15 states could run out of hospital beds if 35 percent of Americans catch the virus in coming weeks. Patients with severe cases of H1N1 infection often need specialized care and ventilators to breathe.
Blendon’s team found that 53 percent of adults plan to get vaccinated and 75 percent of the parents would get their children vaccinated.
Sixty percent of those who said they would not vaccinate their children feared a serious illness from the vaccine.
About half were concerned that they or a family member may get seriously ill and 47 percent said they were not.
But most — 64 percent — felt that public health officials were right to be concerned about swine flu.
The CDC says about a third of infants and 40 percent of young children usually get a seasonal flu vaccine, as well as 66 percent of people over the age of 65, who are the most likely to die from seasonal influenza.
Adults with high risk conditions such as asthma or diabetes are strongly advised to get a seasonal flu shot, and about 40 percent of them usually do.
Only 24 percent of pregnant women, who have a high risk of severe complications from any strain of flu, get vaccinated. The CDC says 28 pregnant women have died in the United States from swine flu.
Editing by Mohammad Zargham