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Canadians divided about getting poked

Officials implore public to receive flu shot

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OTTAWA -- With federal officials declaring Friday that Canada is in its "second wave" of the H1N1 pandemic, a new poll reveals that almost half of Canadians do not plan to get the vaccine created to stop it.

Thirty per cent of those surveyed said they are not at all likely to roll up their sleeves, while 18 per cent said they are not very likely, according to a poll by Ipsos Reid.

While 48 per cent aren't keen to get the shot, 51 per cent are leaning toward it. Thirty-six per cent need little convincing, and said they are very likely to get the vaccine that was approved Wednesday.

Fifteen per cent said they were somewhat likely to get it.

The results reflect the division among Canadians who are now debating what to do when the H1N1 flu shot is available in their communities, as well as the challenge public health officials have ahead of them in trying to tip the balance towards immunization.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler-Jones and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq tried to counter fears and confusion Friday during a news conference, in which they made the case for vaccination.

"There is a very real risk of the flu. Even in its mildest form, it's miserable and, at its worst, it kills or puts into ICUs and on ventilator support perfectly previous healthy young people," said Butler-Jones.

"The choice is simple: a safe and effective preventive vaccine or a very real risk of disease. If we get the real facts about the vaccine, you will almost certainly choose immunization."

The push for the vaccination comes amid confirmation that the second wave of the H1N1 pandemic has landed nationwide.

British Columbia, Quebec and the Northwest Territories were hit weeks ago, but now there is significant sickness in the rest of the country. Three new deaths were reported since Tuesday, bringing the total to 86.

Butler-Jones said the arrival of the second wave means more people will get sick.

Most Canadians -- 56 per cent -- say they're concerned that they or a family member will be among those who fall ill in the coming weeks, yet the reluctance to take the vaccine persists.

The H1N1 flu is striking young Canadians particularly hard, yet they are the ones least likely to get the flu shot, according to the poll.

Thirty-five per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds said they are not at all likely to get immunized, the highest percentage among the age groups surveyed.

Butler-Jones and Aglukkaq appear to have an uphill battle in assuring Canadians about the vaccine's safety and debunking myths about it.

The poll also showed 34 per cent of Canadians aren't certain it will be safe, and 29 per cent fear they could actually get sick from the vaccine itself.

Canadians have a responsibility to "get the facts" about vaccines, said Aglukkaq, and Butler-Jones urged, in some of his strongest language yet, that people filter out bogus claims about vaccines when making their decision.

"There are so many competing voices out there that have no idea of what the science is that underlies this, or make up the science, or make associations with things which are blatantly not true," he said.

Eight in 10 Canadians do feel adequately informed about the pandemic in general, according to the poll, and the same number are confident that public health officials are taking the proper steps to stop the spread of the virus.

Canadians are also doing their part to slow its circulation, and have changed some of their behaviours since the pandemic began in the spring.

In Manitoba, 64 per cent said they are washing their hands more frequently; 25 per cent are using hand sanitizer to stop the spread of germs; 19 per cent are coughing or sneezing into their sleeves; 14 per cent are avoiding public places or large gatherings; and eight per cent are staying home from work when sick.

The telephone poll was conducted Oct. 20-22 and the results are considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

 

-- Canwest News Service, with files from staff

 

 

Who'll roll up their sleeves?

 

Women are more likely than men to say they will get vaccinated

Forty-two per cent of adults over age 55 said they are very likely to get the shot compared with only 29 per cent of adults 18 to 34

British Columbians appear to be the most skeptical about the vaccine, reporting the highest percentage (34 per cent) of people who said they are not likely to get it

Eighty-seven per cent said they stay home from work if they have flu symptoms. Women are more likely than men to call in sick

Almost a quarter of Canadians said they are using public transit less often than before because of the potential flu pandemic

Thirty per cent are shaking hands less often than before the pandemic

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 24, 2009 A10

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