Vaccination Intentions Declined While Risk of H1N1 Still Climbed in First Year of Pandemic

During the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, the publics intention to be vaccinated tapered, even while the perception of risk increased and the pandemic flourished, reports a national study, "Trends in Risk Perceptions and Vaccination Intentions: A Longitudinal Study of the First Year of the H1N1 Pandemic," to be published in the April 2012 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers examined the trends in peoples risk perceptions and vaccination intentions during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Data were pulled from 10 waves of a national U.S. survey focusing on the H1N1 pandemic to assess adult respondents risk perceptions and vaccination intentions.

They found that self-reported perceived risk of becoming infected with H1N1 mirrored H1N1 activity through the first year of the pandemic, yet intention to be vaccinated declined from 50 percent to 16 percent among those who remained unvaccinated. Researchers reported that intention to be vaccinated peaked at their first measurement in May 2009 and steadily declined, even with growing numbers of cases of H1N1 during the fall months. When the H1N1 vaccination finally became available in October and November 2009, many previously motivated individuals were no longer interested in receiving it. The strongest predictor of H1N1 vaccination intention was receipt of seasonal influenza vaccination in the previous year.

The studys authors report, A particularly intriguing finding was that lower income and education were significantly related to lower intention to be vaccinated for H1N1 but were simultaneously related to higher risk perceptions. This may suggest that these groups have particularly high distrust of novel vaccines.

Because prior seasonal influenza vaccination predicts future vaccination for H1N1, encouraging regular seasonal vaccination appears to be a valuable component of pandemic preparedness strategies, the studys authors conclude.