October 23, 2009
OTTAWA – Imagine it was your job to get everyone to agree to act on your advice.
Tall task, eh?
That’s precisely the challenge Canadian and New Brunswick public health officials face in persuading people to roll up their sleeves and get the H1N1 flu vaccine in the next few weeks.
Their logistical challenges – getting the vaccines, needles and staff to clinics – could be easy compared to attracting the public there in this, a demonstrably skeptical age.
Effective public health programs have saved countless lives in the last half-century.
When Dr. Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine in the mid-1950s, he was hailed as a hero for ending the health scourge post-war North Americans feared most. Millions lined up for shots.
More than 90 per cent of New Brunswick parents routinely get their children immunized.
Yet recent polls say only one-third of Canadians intend to get this H1N1 flu shot and U.S. figures are similar.
That may change quickly, said Dr. Kumanan Wilson, Canada Research Chair in Public Health Policy.
Once people start to see healthy young classmates and work colleagues lose a week or two of work and school while they fight a horrible flu, the lineups for shots may mushroom.
For now, “I think there’s a lot of public uncertainty about this vaccine,” said Wilson, a former Frederictonian now at the University of Ottawa.