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Would you have the vaccine?

Fergus Walsh | 17:00 UK time, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

I am frustrated, I admit. I would like to know what the uptake of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine is. But I don't. I have a hunch and a feeling and a bit of anecdotal evidence, but that's not really good enough, is it?

A swine flu vaccination is preparedPlenty of commenters here have said they are going to have or had had the jab. Plenty have expressed concerns, among them quite a few pregnant women. But what percentage of the 11 million people in at-risk groups are going to have the jab?

Professor Steve Field of the Royal College of GPs said it was far too early to work out uptake figures. He pointed out that some GP surgeries had got their first doses only last week. Clearly you can't have a jab (or turn it down) until you are offered it.

Which brings us to surveys, polls and rune reading (okay, not the last).

A "snapshot survey" of 107 GPs in England for Pulse, a magazine for health professionals, indicated that only of patients offered the jab, only 46% accepted.

This was widely reported, but it worries me that this is a self-selecting group. And 107 GPs out of 37,213 in England is not a representative sample.

An GfK-NOP telephone poll for the BBC of just over 2,000 people in the UK asked the following questions about swine flu.

If you were offered the swine flu vaccine would you be happy to have it?
• Yes 52%
• No 27%
• Don't know 21%
If you said "No" or "Don't know" to the above question, which of the following factors would influence your decision?
• Don't think it's needed 36%
• Don't think it will work 11%
• I'm concerned about safety 43%
• Don't know what the vaccine would do 35%
NHS staff are being offered the vaccine to protect themselves and also to help protect patients they are looking after who may be more vulnerable to flu. Do you think they should agree to have it?
• Yes 70%
• No 10%
• Don't know 20%

Some interesting answers there, but remember: this was a sample of the UK population, not a sample of people in the at-risk groups.

You would think that if 2,000 people with asthma, diabetes and immune disorders were polled, the percentage willing to have the vaccine would be higher. So it tells us a bit, but not that much.

So finally I resorted to a single GP practice. Dr Dean Marshall is a GP in Edinburgh, but he is also chairman of the BMA Scottish GPs committee. How is immunisation against swine flu going at his practice?

"It's very early days, but so far we've not been getting a fantastic response from pregnant women. Because they are at greatly increased risk of complications from swine flu, we have been ringing them up to offer the vaccine and about half have said yes, but the rest declined or are still thinking about it.
Overall, we've immunised about 300 people in the at-risk groups. You always get some reluctance with any new vaccine and we've not had long to get a public education campaign going with swine flu. We are clearly going to have to work hard to convince many people to have the jab."


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