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Swine Flu Shots Revive a Debate About Vaccines


19 October 2009

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Jennifer Steinhauer writes in the New York Times:

People who do not believe in vaccinating children have never had much sway over Leslie Wygant Arndt. She has studied the vaccine debate, she said, and came out in favor of having her 10-month-old daughter inoculated against childhood diseases. But there is something different about the vaccine for the H1N1 flu, she said.

“I have looked at the people who are against it, and I find myself taking their side,” said Ms. Wygant Arndt, who lives in Portland, Ore. “But then again I go back and forth on this every day. It’s an emotional topic.”

Anti-vaccinators, as they are often referred to by scientists and doctors, have toiled for years on the margins of medicine. But an assemblage of factors around the swine flu vaccine — including confusion over how it was made, widespread speculation about whether it might be more dangerous than the virus itself, and complaints among some health care workers in New York about a requirement that they be vaccinated — is giving the anti-vaccine movement a fresh airing, according to health experts.

“Nationally right now there is a tremendous amount of attention on this vaccine,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the New York City health commissioner. That focus has given vaccine opponents “an opportunity to speak out publicly and get their message amplified that they didn’t have at other times,” he said.

Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center, an advocacy group that questions the safety of vaccines, said the swine flu has “breathed new life” into the cause. “People who have never asked questions before about vaccines are looking at this one,” Ms. Fisher said.

The increased interest is frustrating to health officials, who are struggling to persuade an already wary public to line up for shots and prevent the spread of the pandemic. According to a CBS News poll conducted last week, only 46 percent said they were likely to get the vaccine. The nationwide poll, which has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points, found that while 6 in 10 parents were likely to have their children vaccinated, less than half said they were “very likely to.”

Read the full article.

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