Is the H1N1 vaccine the new smallpox vaccine?
You may recall the ambitious public health campaign several years ago to vaccinate over 400,000 Americans against smallpox. It was a huge failure, meeting only about 10% of its target. A new paper in Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, reporting on a national survey done in June 2009, suggests that the H1N1 vaccine may be headed for the same fate. Respondents were asked whether they would be willing to receive an H1N1 vaccine approved under Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA. Only 9% of the sample reported that they were willing to receive the vaccine. Although it is important to note that the soon-to-arrive H1N1 vaccine is not being released under Emergency Use Authorization, I suspect that the public won't make the distinction. Interestingly, willingness to receive the vaccine was lower in higher income groups and those with higher educational attainment. Moreover, over half of those individuals who get the seasonal flu vaccine yearly reported they would not take the H1N1 vaccine. (Anecdotally, we are hearing the same from many of our healthcare workers who regularly accept the seasonal vaccine). What should be most worrisome to the CDC is the survey's finding that a sizable fraction of the population does not trust the government's messages or its competence to manage the H1N1 epidemic.