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Of the 40 percent of parents who sought H1N1 flu vaccine for their children, only one-third found it, according to a Harvard School of Public Health survey

By David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 7, 2009; A07

About 40 percent of parents in the United States have tried to get their children vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus, but only one in three has been successful, according to a survey released Friday. High-risk adults seeking the vaccine for themselves were just as unlucky finding it.

At the same time, about half of adults continue to express little interest in getting the vaccine now or later.

The survey by the Harvard School of Public Health sketches an American population split between people who are frustrated because they can't find the vaccine, and those who say they don't want it even when it arrives. Both groups present major challenges to public health -- one to satisfy and the other to convince.

Production of vaccine against the novel H1N1 flu strain is going much more slowly than anticipated because the virus grows so slowly. The federal government, which is buying all the pandemic vaccine and then distributing it to state and city health departments, has ordered 250 million doses from the manufacturers.

The brightest spot in the survey was the finding that 92 percent of the people who have unsuccessfully sought vaccination say they'll try again. At a news briefing Friday, Anne Schuchat, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said she was heartened by that statistic.

"They weren't giving up. They recognize the value of trying to protect themselves with vaccine and sticking with it through the next several weeks," she said.

Healthy children are seeking vaccination at roughly twice the rate of chronically ill adults, even though both are among the groups targeted for vaccination.

"The proportion of parents who tried to get their kids vaccinated was larger than we anticipated," said Robert J. Blendon, a professor of health policy who led the survey team. "I think our sense was that people would start looking later in the season."

In the survey, conducted by phone on Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 1, 41 percent of people with children under age 18 said they had sought vaccine for the children, but only one-third of them had found it. Twenty-one percent of high-priority adults had sought it, and one-third had found it.

At the other end of the spectrum were adults who hadn't been vaccinated at the time the surveyors called. Sixty-two percent of them said they "will not try" to get vaccinated.

The survey polled 1,073 adults. It has a margin of error of about 4 percentage points.

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