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Question of the Week: Swine Flu – To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate?

There’s growing concern that swine flu (a.k.a. H1N1) could return with a vengeance this fall, and drug companies are scrambling to prepare a vaccine. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) claims there will ultimately be enough vaccine for everyone who wants it, although if initial shortages exist, pregnant women, children under 6 months, health care providers, and people between the age of six months and 24 years old will be first in line to receive it.

Worth getting? Photo by ZaldyImg.

Worth getting? Photo by ZaldyImg.

But how many people will actually want the vaccine, even when it becomes widely available? A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll stated that Americans are generally “not too” or “not at all” concerned by swine flu. The poll also noted that 55% of Americans plan to get the vaccine for themselves or a member of their household. Historically, flu vaccines have often been thrown away in large quantities because demand fails to reach expected levels.

This year could prove different. Swine flu has been a hot topic during news reports and everyday conversations, and the Los Angeles Times reports that President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology said up to two million people may be hospitalized by the disease and up to 90,000 could die from it. However, the council gave a wide range of potential deaths, starting at 30,000—the average for number of flu-caused fatalities is 30,000.

So far the CDC states that flu related deaths and hospitalizations are below or within the usual range of yearly averages, and that the number of reported cases has actually decreased in the last few weeks. Nevertheless, the possibility of a swine flu outbreak remains a real concern for health care organizations and government officials and many, although not most, people.

How concerned are you about swine flu? Will you get the vaccine when it becomes available? Discuss!

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