Meta-Poll Reveals Public s Poor Risk Assessment

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A review published in the New England Journal of Medicine by the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed 20 national opinion polls conducted at various points throughout last year s H1N1 flu pandemic. The Wall Street Journal s health blog summarizes, Public health officials, take note: the If we build it, they will come approach to a pandemic flu vaccine isn t going to work. You re also going to have to convince people that the illness is a serious health threat, and that the vaccine is safe.

We in the public health community thought that once we got vaccine out there, everyone would rush to get it, says Dr. Whelan. Pharmaceutical companies were working around the clock to make enough, and people were actually saying there would be shortages, and now we will be throwing away tons of unused vaccines. There were two problems: First, people didn t take the H1N1 flu seriously; second, there were rumors that the vaccine was dangerous, when in fact it was completely safe. Hopefully there is not the same attitude when the next pandemic hits.

Dr. Ross adds, Of course, if the public takes its cue from health care workers, it s no wonder they failed to accept the vaccine. Those workers recoiled from mandates that they get the vaccine to protect themselves, their families, and their patients. That was a shameful message.