Only 40 Percent of Adults 'Absolutely
Certain' They Will Get H1N1 Vaccine
In a new survey, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers
found that just 40% of adults are "absolutely certain"
they will get the H1N1 vaccine for themselves, and 51% of parents
are "absolutely certain" that they will get the vaccine
for their children. The survey examined the reasoning among those
who said they would not get the vaccine or might not. This is
the latest in a series of surveys of public views concerning the
H1N1 flu outbreak undertaken by the Harvard Opinion Research Program
at HSPH. The polling was done September 14-20, 2009.
Public Mixed on Getting Vaccine
About six in ten adults are not "absolutely certain"
they will get the H1N1 vaccine for themselves, including 41% who
say they will not get it, 6% who say they don't know if they will
get it, and 11% who say they are planning to get it but may change
their mind. About four in ten parents (44%) are not "absolutely
certain" that they will get the vaccine for their children,
including 21% who will not get it, 7% who don't know, and 16%
who say they are planning to get it but may change their mind.
If there were people in their community who were sick or dying
from H1N1, roughly six in ten adults (59%) who say they do not
think they'll get the vaccine would change their mind and get
it for themselves. About the same percentage of parents (60%)
who say they do not think they'll get the vaccine for their children
would change their minds if H1N1 was causing sickness or death
in their community.
"These findings suggest that public health officials need
to be prepared for a surge in demand for the H1N1 vaccine if the
H1N1 flu becomes more severe," said Robert J. Blendon, Professor
of Health Policy and Political Analysis at HSPH.
Major Reasons for Not Getting Vaccine or Being Unsure
Those who were not "absolutely certain" they will get
the H1N1 vaccine cited the following as the top "major"
reasons for their thinking: (1) they are concerned about getting
side effects from the vaccine (30%); (2) they don't think they
are at risk of getting a serious case of the illness (28%); and
(3) they think they could get medication to treat H1N1 if they
do get sick (26%). The top "major" reasons cited by
parents who are not "absolutely sure" they will get
the vaccine are that (1) they are concerned about side effects
of the vaccine (38%); (2) they are concerned that their children
could get other illnesses from the vaccine (33%); and (3) they
do not trust public health officials to provide correct information
about the safety of the vaccine (31%).
"There's still a lot of uncertainty about what people will
ultimately do in terms of getting the vaccine. If public health
officials want to encourage a larger number of people to get vaccinated
this fall, they will need to address the public's concerns in
the coming weeks," said Blendon.
At this point in time, only about a third (33%) of the public
sees the H1N1 vaccine as very safe "generally for most people
to take." By comparison, the figure is 57% for the seasonal
flu vaccine. A smaller fraction of the public thinks the H1N1
vaccine is very safe for particular groups to take, including
children ages 6 months to 2 years (18%) and pregnant women (13%).
The Centers for Disease Control is encouraging these groups, among
others, to get the vaccine as early as possible.
Concerns About Outbreak on the Rise
Public concern about a fall or winter outbreak of H1N1 has risen
since June. Roughly three-quarters of the public (76%) believe
there will be widespread cases of H1N1 this fall or winter with
people getting very sick, which is an increase from June when
only 59% felt the same way. More people are also now concerned
that they or someone in their immediate family will get sick from
H1N1 during the next 12 months (52% in later September, as compared
to 38% in June). Roughly two-thirds of people (64%) think that
public health officials' concerns about a possible outbreak have
been justified, while one third (31%) think that they have been
This poll is part of a series of polls about the way that Americans
and their institutions are responding to the H1N1 flu outbreak.
The first three focus on the American public, and the fourth focuses
on views of businesses across the United States.
This poll is part of an on-going series of surveys focused on
the public and biological security by the Harvard Opinion Research
Program (HORP) at Harvard School of Public Health. The study was
designed and analyzed by researchers at the Harvard School of
Public Health (HSPH). The project director is Robert J. Blendon
of the Harvard School of Public Health. The research team also
includes Gillian K. SteelFisher, John M. Benson, and Kathleen
J. Weldon of the Harvard School of Public Health, and Melissa
J. Herrmann of SSRS/ICR. Fieldwork was conducted via telephone
(including both landline and cell phone) for HORP by SSRS/ICR
of Media (PA) September 14-20, 2009.
The survey was conducted with a representative national sample
of 1,042 adults age 18 and over, including oversamples of non-Hispanic
African Americans and Hispanics. Altogether, 144 non-Hispanic
African Americans and 126 Hispanics were interviewed. In the overall
results, these groups were weighted to their actual proportion
of the total adult population.
The margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus 3.7
percentage points. Possible sources of non-sampling error include
non-response bias, as well as question wording and ordering effects.
Non-response in telephone surveys produces some known biases in
survey-derived estimates because participation tends to vary for
different subgroups of the population. To compensate for these
known biases, sample data are weighted to the most recent Census
data available from the Current Population Survey for gender,
age, race, education, region, and number of adults in the household.
Other techniques, including random-digit dialing, replicate subsamples,
and systematic respondent selection within households, are used
to ensure that the sample is representative.