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Most parents won't have kids get H1N1 flu shots, study finds

A national survey suggests parents are confused about the risks of the virus and its vaccine.

September 25, 2009|Melissa Healy

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.

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melissa.healy@latimes.com

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