Study: Suspicion will greet any new pandemic vax

When the next pandemic hits, you can expect a huge number of people in the U.S. to steer clear of any new vaccine developed to prevent an outbreak. Many will not be quite sure of its safety, and millions will be inclined to believe that the pandemic isn't all that serious.

That's the conclusion of a new study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, who studied 20 national opinion polls taken as the H1N1 pandemic swiftly spread throughout the country last year. Only a third of all adults concluded that the new swine flu vaccine was "very safe," with a deep undertow of doubt regarding its safety. Even ahead of the vaccine's arrival last fall only about half of adults said they planned to get a shot. By December, as a large quantity of flu vaccine became available, there was a growing belief that the pandemic was not as serious as originally believed.

The bottom line: The government will need to roll out an ambitious education program if it expects widespread use of any new pandemic vaccine made to guard against a future outbreak. The report is being published online at the New England Journal of Medicine.

"In the event of a future influenza pandemic, a substantial proportion of the public may not take a newly developed vaccine because they may believe that the illness does not pose a serious health threat, because they (especially parents) may be concerned about the safety of the available vaccine, or both," the report concludes.

- here's the story from the Wall Street Journal