As concern spreads about H1N1 flu, a survey of California voters found that although most consider the vaccine safe, a majority had no plans to get vaccinated. The poll found that blacks and Latinos are far more likely than other groups to say they believe the vaccine could be unsafe.
Five percent of those surveyed said they had been inoculated, a figure that remained consistent across income groups. Of the rest, 52 percent said they did not plan to get vaccinated. Among the 40 percent who said they wanted the vaccine, 12 percent said they had attempted to find it but failed.
The decision not to get the vaccine, for the most part, did not appear driven by safety concerns. Seventy percent of those polled said they think the H1N1 vaccine is safe for most people, 17 percent said there was a "strong chance" the vaccine is unsafe. Among blacks, the percentage expressing concern about safety was twice as high, and among Latinos, 25 percent did so.
The findings come from a Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California College of Letters, Arts & Sciences Poll. The survey, based on interviews of 1,500 registered voters from Oct. 27 through Nov. 3, was conducted for the Times and USC by two nationally prominent polling firms, the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
Some responses, particularly those of minority groups and young adults, may be of concern to public health officials.
Blacks and Latinos are among those at risk of catching H1N1 flu, mostly because they suffer disproportionately from asthma, diabetes and other health problems. They are four times more likely than whites to be hospitalized with H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released in September.
The Times/USC poll found that people ages 18 to 29 had the highest negative percentage, 59 percent, saying they had no plans to get vaccinated. Public health officials have determined that people in their late teens through mid-20s belong to one of the five priority risk groups.
Cody Bannerman, 24, of San Francisco was among those who said he does not intend to get the vaccine. Bannerman, an unemployed financial analyst, said he considers the vaccine safe but getting vaccinated would be inconvenient.
"There's a lot of time you have to put into getting the vaccine, finding out where to get it and standing in line," Bannerman said. "If they had, like, a vaccination station in my neighborhood and you could just drop by, I might be more inclined to get it."
The Times/USC poll found that people who identified themselves as conservative Republicans were nearly twice as likely as those who said they were liberal Democrats to say there was a strong chance the vaccine was unsafe.