WASHINGTON — Most parents like the idea of vaccinating children against swine flu at school, but they’re not so eager to roll up their own sleeves.
Parents do seem to be listening to warnings that this novel flu strain strikes the young more often than the old, an Associated Press-GfK poll suggests. Nearly two-thirds said they were likely to give permission for their children to be inoculated at school — if the government’s evolving plan to try that pans out — and 40 percent said very likely.
However, even as the government races to get enough swine flu vaccine for Americans in time for fall’s expected rebound of the virus, only a third of people say they’re very likely to get vaccinated themselves once shots arrive.
“I don’t think I am going to die from the swine flu,” says Seattle truck driver Luis Gonzalez, 40, who adds that neither he, his wife nor their three children ever have had a flu shot or caught influenza.
He’s far from alone. The AP-GfK poll shows 56 percent of Americans aren’t worried that they or their family will catch swine flu.
The complacency doesn’t surprise flu experts. While swine flu still is spreading around the country — strange, since most influenza viruses can’t hack summer’s heat and humidity — it has killed relatively few, 300, of the more than a million Americans estimated to have been sickened.
“We’re in a lull now,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious diseases chief. “People really like vaccine when they see people getting sick. That’s just human psychology.”
It’s another story for parents, perhaps rattled by last spring’s swine flu-caused school closings.
“With kids at school, at a close proximity to each other, disease can spread quite easily,” said Lance Griffin, 38, a Wichita, Kan., commodities broker and father of three. Get ready for a confusing fall: The regular winter flu is expected to make its usual rounds — infecting up to one in five Americans and killing 36,000 — at the same time swine flu spreads. But it will take two separate vaccinations to protect against both kinds.
“Don’t forget the seasonal vaccine,” pleaded Dr. Carol Baker of Baylor College of Medicine.