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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Why do I need it? I am not at risk! Public perceptions towards the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 vaccine

Holly Seale1*, Anita E Heywood15, Mary-Louise McLaws1, Kirsten F Ward2, Chris P Lowbridge3, Debbie Van4 and C Raina MacIntyre15

Author affiliations

1 School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

2 General Practice, NSW, Sydney, Australia

3 Public Health Nurse, Sydney, Australia

4 Medical Student, Faculty of Medicine, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

5 National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (NCIRS), The Children's Hospital at Westmead and Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:99  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-99

Published: 19 April 2010

Abstract

Background

On the 30th September 2009, the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza vaccine was made available to adults and children aged 10 years and over, in Australia. Acceptance of a novel vaccine is influenced by perceptions of risk including risk of infection, risk of death or severe illness and risk of serious vaccine side-effects. We surveyed a sample of residents from Sydney, Australia to ascertain their risk perception, attitudes towards the pandemic and willingness to accept the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza vaccine.

Methods

We sampled residents using a cross-sectional intercept design during the WHO Phase 6. Members of the public were approached in shopping and pedestrian malls to undertake the survey during September and October 2009. The survey measured perceived risk, seriousness of disease, recent behavioural changes, likely acceptance of the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 vaccine and issues relating to uptake and perceived safety.

Results

Of the 627 respondents, the majority felt that they had a "very low to low" (332/627, 52.9%) risk of acquiring H1N1. 24.5% (154/627) of respondents believed that the disease would "very seriously or extremely" affect their health. Nearly half (305/627, 48.6%) reported that in response to the "swine flu" outbreak they had undertaken one or more of the investigated behavioural changes. Overall, the self-reported likelihood of accepting vaccination against novel H1N1 was 54.7% (343/627).

Conclusions

While, most participants did not believe they were at high risk of acquiring pandemic H1N1 2009, over half of the sample indicated that they would accept the vaccine. Participants who were vaccinated against the seasonal influenza were more likely to receive the H1N1 vaccine. Concerns about safety, the possibility of side effects and the vaccine development process need to be addressed.