Public concerned over novel vaccine risks

Parents and healthcare workers may refuse the H1N1 vaccine for themselves or their children due to fears about the risks of a novel vaccine.

The findings of a study published in Emerging Health Threats Journal have indicated that people are concerned that the risks of using a new vaccine may outweigh the benefits.

Researchers Natalie Henrich of the University of British Columbia and Bev Holmes of Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada, conducted 11 focus groups in Vancouver in 2006 and 2007, before the onset of the current H1N1 pandemic. Participants were asked how willing they would be to accept a new vaccine in the event of a pandemic.

Acceptance of novel vaccines during health crises is influenced by perceptions of a range of risks, including risk of infection, risk of becoming severely ill or dying if infected, and risk of serious side- and long-term effects of the vaccine,” said the report.

The focus groups were conducted to explore how people assess these risks and how these assessments relate to willingness to use novel vaccines in a pandemic.

The study found that “participants were hesitant to use the novel vaccines because of a low perception of risk of infection early in a pandemic coupled with the many uncertainties that surround new vaccines and the emerging infectious disease, and concern that unsafe pharmaceuticals may be rushed to market during the health crisis.”

The researchers believe that understanding people’s perceptions of the risks and willingness to use novel vaccines during a pandemic can help officials to promote disease control measures in ways that improve the likelihood of acceptance by the public and may increase uptake of an H1N1 vaccine.