By Melissa Healy | LA Times
September 25, 2009 -- Germ-spreading schoolchildren are expected to be the focus of a massive U.S. vaccination campaign against the novel H1N1 flu.
But if their parents are hearing the rallying cry to have their kids vaccinated, they're not buying it, says a new national survey.
In a poll of 1,678 U.S. parents conducted by the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, 40% said they would get their children immunized against the H1N1 virus -- even as 54% indicated they would get their kids vaccinated against regular seasonal flu.
Among those who said they do not intend to have their kids vaccinated against H1N1, almost half -- 46% -- indicated they're not worried about their children becoming ill with the pandemic virus. Twenty percent said they do not believe the H1N1 flu is a serious disease.
There were differences along racial and ethnic lines in parents' responses, which were collected Aug. 13 to Aug. 31. More than half of Latino parents said they would bring their kids to get vaccinated against H1N1. Among white parents, 38% said they would do so. African American parents were the least inclined to vaccinate: 30% said they planned to do so.
About half of the parents who said they'd pass on the H1N1 flu shot for their kids expressed concern about possible side effects of the vaccine.
The chatter about seasonal flu and novel H1N1 flu, and the differences in their relative virulence, has certainly confused parents, the survey suggests. Half of respondents said they believe that, for children, seasonal and H1N1 flu pose roughly equivalent risks.
"That perception may not match the actual risks," Dr. Matthew Davis, the poll director, said in a statement. Davis is a University of Michigan professor of pediatrics and internal medicine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that though serious complications of seasonal flu appear to spare most kids and strike the elderly and very young most heavily, the novel H1N1 flu appears to hit children and young adults hardest.
Not surprisingly, parents who believe that the H1N1 flu will be worse for children were most likely to say they will have their own children vaccinated.
In a news release accompanying the poll results, Davis said that public health officials wishing to maximize vaccination rates among schoolchildren need to communicate clearly to their parents that kids are at relatively greater risk of becoming seriously ill with the novel flu strain if they get it.
University of Michigan Health Service Press Release: H1N1 flu: Are parents underestimating risk to kids
September 24, 2009
Media contact: Jessica Soulliere
C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health finds less than half of parents plan to have their children vaccinated against H1N1 flu, despite higher disease risk; Hispanic parents more likely to vaccinate
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—With schools back in session, H1N1 flu has become more active across the United States—especially among children. A new vaccine against H1N1 flu—strongly recommended for kids—has been tested and is expected to be available in October. But will parents get their children vaccinated?
The latest C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health finds only 40 percent of parents indicate they will get their children vaccinated against H1N1 flu—while 54 percent of parents indicate they will get their children vaccinated against seasonal flu. Among parents who do not plan to get their children vaccinated against H1N1 flu, 46 percent indicate they are not worried about their children getting H1N1 flu, while 20 percent believe H1N1 flu is not serious.
“This information about parents’ plans to vaccinate their kids against H1N1 flu suggests that parents are much less concerned about H1N1 flu than seasonal flu for their kids. That perception may not match the actual risks,” says Matthew Davis, M.D., director of the poll and associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan Medical School.
The poll also shows vaccination plans for H1N1 flu differs by racial/ethnic groups. More than half of Hispanic parents plan to have their children vaccinated against H1N1 flu, compared to only 38 percent of white parents and 30 percent of black parents.
Vaccination plans of Hispanic parents may reflect a higher perceived risk in the Hispanic community, given the well publicized outbreak of H1N1 flu in Mexico in early 2009, Davis says.
In describing their perceived risk of H1N1 flu for children, one-third of parents indicate they believe H1N1 flu will be worse than seasonal flu. Nearly half of parents believe H1N1 and seasonal flu will be about the same for children, according to the poll.
These perceptions contrast information from the CDC suggesting that—unlike what is typically seen with seasonal flu—rates of illness and hospitalizations related to H1N1 flu are higher for children than for other age groups.
“It can be difficult to follow all the new information about a fast moving target like H1N1 flu,” says Davis, who is also associate professor of public policy at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. “Health care professionals and public health officials need to help parents and the community at-large understand that children are one of the groups at greatest risk for getting H1N1, and for getting very sick from the disease as well.”
Among parents who do not plan to get their children vaccinated against H1N1 flu, or who are unsure, about half are worried about possible side effects of the vaccine. Among parents who do plan to get their children vaccinated against H1N1 flu, about 4 in 5 believe that H1N1 is a serious disease and worry about their children getting H1N1 illness. Parents who think H1N1 flu will be worse for children than seasonal flu were much more likely to plan to have their children vaccinated against H1N1 flu.
“This connection between perceived risk and plans to vaccinate against H1N1 flu makes a lot of sense,” says Davis. “What it emphasizes is that to reach parents who are currently unsure about H1N1 vaccination and convince them to go ahead and vaccinate their kids, the health care community needs to focus on communicating key information about the risk of H1N1 flu for children.”
The poll surveyed 1,678 parents from Aug. 13 - 31, 2009 across the U.S. about their plans and perceptions related to getting their children vaccinated against H1N1 flu and seasonal flu.
Meet the expert:
Matthew Davis, M.D.
C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health
Resources for parents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- General information about H1N1 influenza: www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/qa.htm
- Information about the H1N1 vaccine and vaccine safety: http://cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/vaccine_safety_qa.htm
Methodology: This report presents findings from a nationally representative household surveyconducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc, for C.S. Mott ChildrensHospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey wasadministered in August 2009 to a randomly selected, stratified group of parentsaged 18 and older (n=1,678) from the Knowledge Networks standing panel thatclosely resembles the U.S. population.The sample was subsequently weightedto reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion ratewas 62 percentamong panel members contacted to participate. The margin oferror is plus or minus 2 to 5 percentage points for the main analysis.For results based on subgroups, the margin of error is higher.
To learn more about Knowledge Networks, visit www.knowledgenetworks.com.
Purpose/Funding: The C.S. Mott Childrens Hospital National Poll on Childrens Health funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and part of the CHEAR Unit at the U-M Health System is designed to measure major health care issues and trends for U.S. childrenand their families.For this particular topic, additional funding was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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