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Poll: Only 1 in 3 who want H1N1 shot can find it

A new national poll found that only about a third of adults who have tried to get a swine flu vaccine have been able to get it. The numbers are about the same for parents who tried to get the vaccine for their children.
Image: California Medical Center Holds Free H1N1 Drive-Thru Community Clinic
Hundreds of people waited for hours to recieve a free H1N1 shot during a vaccination clinic at Doctor's Medical Center on Nov. 5, 2009 in San Pablo, California.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images North America
/ Source: The Associated Press

Only about a third of adults who have tried to get a swine flu vaccine have been able to get it, according to a new national poll released Friday.

That's true even for people who are at extra risk for severe complications and should be at the front of the line. The numbers are about the same for parents who tried to get the vaccine for their children, the Harvard School of Public Health poll found.

Swine flu vaccine has been available in the United States for about a month, but supplies have been limited because of manufacturing delays. However, availability is picking up, said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 38 million doses of swine flu are currently available, a one-week increase of about 11 million doses. Another 8 million doses are expected next week, she added.

Overall, the poll found about 80 percent of the adults in priority groups said they haven't tried to get it yet and 60 percent of parents haven't sought it out for their kids.

The Harvard telephone poll surveyed about 1,000 adults last weekend. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

Many of the poll's findings seemed consistent with what the government has been hearing and seeing, said CDC officials. Nearly a third of Americans who tried and failed to get vaccine said they were very frustrated, the poll found, and that frustration has been evident at long lines at vaccination clinics.

But it was encouraging to see that nine in 10 people who couldn't get vaccine will try again, said Schuchat, who heads the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The poll also found:

  • About 5 percent of those surveyed said they'd been vaccinated.
  • About 60 percent said there were swine flu vaccine shortages in their community.
  • About half who tried couldn't find information about where to get the vaccine.

Because of limited supplies, there have been situations in which vaccine went to doctor's offices or clinics intended for children or other priority groups and it wasn't publicized, Schuchat said.

"When you have limited supply, advertising is difficult. You don't want to frustrate the demand," Schuchat said at a Friday press conference in Atlanta.

Swine flu is currently widespread in 48 states; Hawaii and Mississippi are the exceptions. Mississippi dropped off the list this week, reflecting that flu activity seems to be waning in some parts of the Southeast.

CDC officials said 129 children have died from swine flu complications since the virus was first identified in April. About two-thirds of them had other health conditions, like asthma or neurological problems like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. The government does not keep a close count of all swine flu deaths, but estimates the number is above 1,000. Many millions of Americans have been infected with the virus, though most suffered only mild illness, health officials say.