Vaccine: Low take up among people most at risk, found survey
Millions of people are shunning the swine flu jab over fears about its safety, a survey of GPs suggests.
It found that fewer than half of those offered the vaccination are taking it up – with pregnant women the most likely to say no.
Anyone in ‘at risk’ groups between the ages of six months and 65 years – 11 million people in all – are being offered the jab. But doctors said that just 46 per cent were taking it.
One GP said as few as one in 20 pregnant women had been vaccinated, even though studies have shown they are four times as likely to end up in hospital if they catch the virus.
The survey, in Pulse magazine, revealed many believed the virus is just too mild to warrant having the vaccine.
But last night the Department of Health said it was vital that everyone who is offered the vaccine should have it, because swine flu can be deadly for a small number of people.
Even if they did not fall ill, they could pass the disease on to someone else who is more vulnerable.
The DoH rejected concerns over the safety of the vaccine – saying it has been through the same rigorous tests as the seasonal flu jabs which are used every year without significant incident. So far in the UK, 182 people have died from swine flu, and last week there were an estimated 64,000 new cases, down from the previous week.
The survey of 107 GPs, published in Pulse magazine, follows others which suggest many doctors and nurses were also forgoing the vaccine.
In the latest poll, doctors estimated the take-up rate among their patients was 46 per cent. Only 37 per cent believed they would vaccinate more than half of their at-risk patients.
Dr Chris Udenze, who works in Nottingham, said: ‘In all the pregnant women we’ve offered it to, I think only about one in 20 has agreed.’
A GP in Kensington said he was encountering ‘considerable scepticism’ from pregnant women. And Dr Sharon Shmueli, a GP in Swindon, said fewer than 25 per cent of pregnant patients at her practice had chosen to be vaccinated.
The DoH has contracts with two major drugs firms to provide enough vaccine for the entire population.
Richard Hoey, editor of Pulse, said: ‘Many patients, like a substantial number of doctors, are unconvinced there is sufficient evidence that swine flu vaccination is safe and necessary.
‘The Government needs to be much clearer about the safety data it has gathered on the vaccine so far.
‘It also needs to publish a full justification for the priority risks groups it has picked out for vaccination, to convince the public that the people being prioritised really are those who will benefit most.’