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One in two GPs 'will refuse swine flu vaccine'

24 Aug 09

By Lilian Anekwe

Exclusive: Nearly half of GPs have decided to not be vaccinated against swine flu once a jab becomes available in the autumn.

A snapshot survey of GPs conducted by Pulse found that 56 of the 115 GPs surveyed said they did not intend to receive the jab.

Last week chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson announced GPs and frontline healthcare workers would be given top priority in the queue for the swine flu vaccine.

Sir Liam Donaldson vowed to vaccinate healthcare staff by Christmas at the latest, in order to keep working during the expected second wave of the swine flu – which is expected to be more severe in the winter with a worst case scenario of 65,000 deaths according to Department of Health modelling.
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But the Pulse poll shows the extent of the reluctance amongst GPs to have the jab. Of the 115 GPs surveyed, 56 said they did not intend to be vaccinated, 48 said they would have the jab when it was available, and 11 were undecided.

It comes as public opinion appears to be swaying in the face of continuing concern over the safety of the vaccine.

A study published in the journal Emerging Health Threats found parents may refuse to get immunised or vaccinate their children against a pandemic virus if they believe the risks of a novel vaccine outweigh the benefits.

The Canadian researchers conducted 11 focus groups and found the public would be reluctant to get vaccinated against an illness perceived as mild, and were ‘very concerned’ that a vaccine would be rushed through without sufficient testing for safety.



Doctors may refuse swine flu vaccine

Several studies suggest up to 60% of GPs would oppose being immunised because they are concerned the safety trials will be rushed

Sarah Boseley
Health editor
guardian.co.uk, Monday 24 August 2009 16.01 BST

Half of GPs said they believe swine flu is too mild to justify taking a vaccine … a nurse prepares a syringe during a mass immunisation exercise at Bolton arena in 2006 to test procedures in case of a flu pandemic. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

Many GPs, as well as their patients, may be reluctant to be immunised against swine flu once a vaccine is developed, surveys suggest today.

A survey of GPs published on Healthcare Republic, the website of GP magazine, found that up to 60% of GPs may decline vaccination. Although the numbers who responded were small – 216 GPs – they are in line with a much bigger survey of nurses published a week ago by Nursing Times, which found that a third of 1,500 nurses would refuse vaccination.

A Canadian study published today in the journal Emerging Health Threats suggests the public, too, will have reservations that must be overcome if a vaccination campaign is to be successful in the autumn or winter. The study, which used focus groups to establish the likely response of different people to a vaccine, pointed to the need to win over people who believe that alternative therapies and a good diet are a better option than vaccines.

But the biggest problem in persuading people and healthcare professionals to have the jab may be the relative shortage of evidence from trials about its safety and efficacy. Because of the urgent need for a vaccine, testing will be limited.

Among the GPs who responded to the survey published by Healthcare Republic, 29% said they would not choose to have the vaccine and 29% said they were unsure whether or not they would.

The biggest reason given by those who said they would not have it was concern that the safety trials would not be adequate: 71.3% said they were "concerned that the vaccine has not yet been through sufficient trials to guarantee safety". Half – 50.4% – said they "believe that swine flu is too mild to justify taking the vaccine". Only 8.7% said they did not believe they were at risk.

Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation for the Department of Health, commented on the website that frontline health workers have responsibilities to other people. "They have a duty to their patients not to infect their patients and they have a duty to their families," he said. "I think you solve those responsibilities by being vaccinated."

The Department of Health played down the results, saying that the small number of responders could not accurately be said to reflect the opinions of all GPs. But a spokesman added: "GPs will have an important role in the height of a pandemic. Getting the swine flu vaccine will protect them and their patients. That's why we're offering GPs the vaccine as a priority. Of course, vaccination will be optional, but the vaccine is being carefully assessed for safety and will be licensed before it is used."

Many of those questioned in focus groups for the study in Emerging Health Threats felt uneasy about vaccination for an illness perceived as mild. Others felt they could protect themselves through handwashing, keeping their distance from other people and even a good diet.

The survey results appeared as the department of health announced 14 new fast-tracked research projects into various aspects of swine flu, costing £2.25m. These include work to establish how long somebody with the virus is contagious and to establish the "safe distance" from a patient. Other projects will look at whether closing schools – which was the early response to the epidemic – stops spread and whether facemasks for healthcare workers are worthwhile.

One third of doctors do not want swine flu vaccination

Almost a third of doctors do not want to be immunised against swine flu, according to a new poll.


The survey, carried out by Healthcare Republic for GP newspaper, found that almost three in 10 GPs said they would not have the swine flu vaccine, with the same number, 29 per cent, unsure whether they would or not.

Out of the 216 GPs polled, more than seven in 10 said they were concerned there had not been sufficient trials.

Professor David Salisbury, the Department of Health's director of immunisation, told Healthcare Republic that front line health workers had a duty to get immunised.

"They have a duty to their patients not to infect their patients and they have a duty to their families," he said.

"I think you solve those responsibilities by being vaccinated."

A separate poll found even more GPs saying they did not want to be vaccinated, with 49 per cent saying they would reject it.

The survey for Pulse magazine, which questioned 115 doctors, said they would reject it, with almost one in 10 undecided.

More than two thirds of those who will reject it believe that the jabs have not been tested enough, while most believe swine flu has been so mild in the majority of cases that it is not needed.

Richard Hoey, editor of Pulse, said: "The medical profession has yet to be convinced by the Government's whole approach to swine flu, with most GPs now feeling that the Department of Health overreacted in its policy on blanket use of Tamiflu.

"Inevitably, that has coloured feelings about the planned immunisation campaign.

"The view among many doctors is that the Government hasn't yet made its case for why such a huge vaccination programme needs to be rushed in for what seems to be an unusually mild illness."

Another piece of research, published in the Emerging Health Threats Journal, found that parents and health workers may refuse to get immunised or vaccinate their children against swine flu.

The study conducted in Vancouver, from experts at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, involved 85 people before the onset of the current flu pandemic.

Parents known to favour alternative medicine were particularly opposed to vaccination, but health workers said they would be reluctant to get vaccinated if the illness was mild.

The survey results come as it was announced by the Government that 14 scientific projects into swine flu were being fast-tracked to help understand the pandemic.

The research projects, backed by £2.25 million, will launch around Britain this week, with results available by the end of the year.

The 14 projects will look at issues such as whether closing schools is effective in preventing spread of the virus and if health workers should wear face masks.

Experts will also look at managing swine flu in pregnant women to protect them and their unborn babies, and will identify priorities for looking after critical care patients.

The work will be led by research centres in Leicester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Manchester and London.

One of the studies, led by Professor Steve Goodacre of the University of Sheffield, will look at data that can be recorded in A&E to evaluate whether somebody with swine flu needs to be admitted to hospital.

Another project will estimate how long somebody is contagious for and advise on a "safe distance" for people wishing to avoid swine flu.

Professor Jonathan Nguyen Van-Tam of the University of Nottingham and the Health Protection Agency, will lead this study.

"Very little is currently known about the H1N1 virus which makes it very hard to predict the numbers of people likely to catch it and how best to treat them," he said.

"For example, we do not know how long the virus is excreted by infected humans and how much virus is spread to surfaces and carried in the air."