Survey finds San Franciscans skeptical of H1N1 dangers, need for vaccine
Findings by SF State marketing students show improvements needed in communication about virus
SAN FRANCISCO, December 7, 2009 -- A survey of San Franciscans' attitudes and perceptions about the H1N1 virus found that 75 percent of those surveyed were not planning to get an H1N1 vaccination or were undecided about receiving the vaccine because of uncertainty about the vaccine and concern about its safety.
A team of professors and graduate students at San Francisco State University surveyed 330 adults in San Francisco between Oct. 31 and Nov. 9, and found that San Franciscans were undecided about the H1N1 vaccine because of mixed reports about the need for the vaccination and the opinion that the vaccine has not been tested or is too risky.
"Our research shows that San Franciscans were more skeptical than people in other places," said Professor of Marketing Sanjit Sengupta, who led the project. "In interviews, people said they didn't trust information they received from the media, but most respondents' main source of information was the mainstream media."
Sengupta said that on many of the survey questions, respondents believed that risks of H1N1 were overhyped. Responses showed that among sources of information, doctors had the highest level of credibility among the public, followed by the workplace and schools, with the media being the least credible.
"We're recommending that organizations and schools should be used as distribution points of information," Sengupta said. "Workplaces and schools have a vested interest in preventing disruptions due to illness, and should be used more instead of the media."
Other findings in the survey include:
- Only three out of the 330 survey respondents had already received the H1N1 vaccine.
- Thirty-eight percent of respondents felt they had conflicting information regarding swine flu and 32 percent said not enough information has been provided.
Sengupta said future communications about H1N1 must address the seriousness of H1N1, consequences for individual and public health, safety of the vaccine and, locations and dates of when the vaccine will be available.
The survey also has implications for communications in future pandemic situations. Sengupta said it's important for government leaders to remember issues of supply and demand when publicizing vaccinations and illness risk. "You never want to create a situation where so much attention is given to getting vaccinations if you don't have vaccines ready to satisfy the public need," he said.
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