WASHINGTON — Despite a rising nationwide toll of sickness caused by the H1N1 flu virus and an intensive push by the government to have people vaccinated for it, almost half of Americans say they aren’t likely to get the vaccine, according to a new McClatchy-Ipsos poll.
Just 52 percent of Americans say they’re likely to get the vaccine: 33 percent who say they’re very likely to get it and 19 percent who say they’re somewhat likely.
Forty-seven percent say they aren’t likely to get it: 30 percent who say they aren’t at all likely to get vaccinated and 17 percent who say they aren’t very likely to do it. The vaccine is available through a shot or a nasal spray.
The McClatchy-Ipsos poll also found rising opposition to the health care overhaul legislation that’s before Congress. About 49 percent of Americans now oppose it — up 7 points from October — while only 39 percent said they supported it. The poll had an error margin of 2.98 percentage points.
The surprising finding of widespread resistance to the swine flu vaccine comes as the illness continues to spread and a growing number of Americans say they’re concerned about it: 63 percent now versus 51 percent last spring.
Nearly 25,000 people have contracted the flu so far in the United States, and 114 children have died from it.
Federal health officials are striving to assure Americans that the vaccine is safe, through constant appearances in the news media and on the Web site www.flu.gov. This week, for example, they said the vaccine had been subjected to rigorous safety tests and clinical trials and that it posed no more risk than an ordinary seasonal flu vaccine did.
“This vaccine is made exactly the same way as we make seasonal flu every year, with decades of good safety experience,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday on CBS.
Health officials are urging the people most at risk — children, pregnant women and health workers — to get vaccinated first.
Many who want the vaccine have been frustrated by long lines and delays, however, as the government says it’s received about only 30 million doses, 50 million short of what it had projected it would have by this time. Production was slower than expected.
“I fully understand how frustrated people are and, frankly, how anxious a lot of parents are about getting this vaccine in a timely fashion,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday.
“What I can tell you is that production numbers are up. We got 9 million new doses last week. We will have 10 million total new doses this week. That’s good news.”
If people are skeptical about the vaccine or put off by delays in its availability, most of them aren’t blaming the Obama administration. Two out of three, 65 percent, said they were confident that the administration had done everything in its power to make the vaccine available in time.
The views of the Obama administration’s handling of the vaccine have partisan undercurrents.
Democrats were the most confident: Eighty-two percent gave thumbs up to the government and 16 percent said they didn’t have confidence.
Independents were next, expressing confidence in the government by 56-36 percent.
Republicans were the most divided, split evenly 49-49 on the administration’s handling of the vaccine.
On the broader question of overhauling health care, the rising opposition shows that Democrats are increasingly isolated on the question. In a sign of potential political trouble, independents oppose the plan by 53-29 percent. Most Democrats support it; most Republicans oppose it.
Despite the plurality of opposition to the overall proposal, Americans favor creating a public health-insurance program to compete with private insurers by 51-43 percent.