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Flu shots: Canadian and U.S. polls reveal misperceptions about the vaccine

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Polls released during the past several days, in the United States and Canada, show that misinformation and misperceptions people have about the seasonal influenza vaccine keeps them from getting vaccinated.

In Canada, a Forum Research poll shows that about one-fifth of the adult population will not get the flu vaccine because of mistrust of the shot, considering it dangerous, according to a Globe and Mail report Jan. 20.

According to the poll data, 49 per cent of adult Canadians said they had no intention of getting vaccinated, and here's why: mistrust of vaccines, 36 per cent; they never get the flu, 35 per cent; inconvenience, 5 per cent; too time consuming, 4 per cent and lack of availability, 3 per cent.

The poll was conducted January 16-17. A total of 1,779 Canadian adults were surveyed by phone, using an interactive voice response system. The results are considered accurate within plus or minus two per cent, 19 times out of 20.

In the United States, a survey released by the National Consumers League (NCL) Friday show some similar patterns.

The NCL survey reveals that the most common reason for not receiving the flu vaccine among adults who reported they have never received a flu shot was their good health (45%), side effects (29%), and perceived ineffectiveness of the vaccine (24%).

Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director said, “And 20 percent of Americans who do not get the vaccine say they avoid it because they mistakenly fear the vaccine increases one’s chance of contracting the virus. Consumers are clearly confused about the value of the flu shot for both individuals and for their community, and they need better education.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older.

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