High-Priority Adults Unable to Get H1N1 Vaccine

November 6, 2009

A new national poll from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers found that a majority of adults who tried to get the H1N1 vaccine for themselves or their children have been unable to do so.

The poll, which examines the American public's response to the H1N1 vaccine shortage, is the fifth in a series of surveys of public views concerning the H1N1 flu outbreak undertaken by the Harvard Opinion Research Program at HSPH. The polling was conducted Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, 2009.

Since the H1N1 flu vaccine became available in October, 17 percent of American adults, 41 percent of parents, and 21 percent of high-priority adults have tried to get it. Among adults who tried to get it for themselves, 30 percent were able to get the vaccine and 70 percent were unable to get it. Among parents who tried to get the H1N1 vaccine for their children, 34 percent were able to get it and 66 percent were unable to get it. Among high-priority adults who tried to get the H1N1 vaccine, 34 percent were able to get it and 66 percent were unable to get it.

Parents in this poll include those with children 6 months to less than 18 years. High-priority adults include adults who live with or care for a child less than 6 months of age, pregnant women, healthcare and emergency health personnel, and adults 25-64 with health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza, such as asthma or heart disease.

The poll also shows that some people were not able to find information about the location of available H1N1 flu vaccine. Approximately half who tried to find such information (49 percent) were unable to find it.

"These findings suggest that the nationwide H1N1 vaccine shortage is presenting a real challenge for those who have tried to get the vaccine," said Robert J. Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at HSPH, who co-directed the poll.

The poll suggests that nearly a third (29 percent) of those who have tried and could not get the vaccine (either for themselves or for their children) are very frustrated. That said, most who have tried and not been able to get it yet (91 percent) say they will try again this year to get the vaccine for themselves, their children or both.

"Public health officials who are encouraging H1N1 vaccination may be relieved to see that most people who have so far been unable to get the vaccine say they will try again," said Blendon.

Looking more broadly at the issue of vaccine shortages, most Americans (82 percent) believe there is a shortage of H1N1 vaccine in the United States, and approximately 4 in 10 (41 percent) believe this is a major problem for the country. More than half of adults (60 percent) believe there is a shortage of H1N1 vaccine in their community.

Forty percent believe there will still not be enough H1N1 flu vaccine by the end of November for everyone in their community who wants it. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) say it will be a very serious problem for them and their immediate family if the H1N1 vaccine is not available by then.