Few willing to take swine flu vaccine

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Only one in five Norwegians is willing to be vaccinated against swine flu, according to a new survey. The low response rate worries state health officials, who want people to protect not only themselves but others as well.

One health care official went so far as to appeal to Norwegians on Tuesday that it’s their patriotic duty to be vaccinated. But a survey conducted by research firm Respons for newspaper Aftenposten suggests they’re not buying it.

Only 21 percent of those questioned said they’d get vaccinated. Fully 64 percent said they would not accept the vaccine that now has arrived in Norway. The remaining 15 percent hadn’t made up their minds.

The numbers surprised Dr Bjørn Iversen of the state health institute (Folkehelseinstituttet) . The vaccine acceptance rate was “low,” he said, “and I hope a lot more accept the offer of the vaccination when they receive it, not least to protect others.”

Local doctors’ offices and clinics have reported a sharp increase in cases of swine flu the past week, and Iversen said the disease can be more frightening than first thought.

Even though the majority of those infected with swine flu recover fairly quickly, some people become seriously ill, not just those with chronic illness. A 50-year-old man and a teenager were both hospitalized over the weekend with swine flu. The man has since died, the seventh fatality in Norway.

Most of the Norwegians responding negatively to the offer of a vaccination claimed they did not belong to any high-risk group, didn’t think swine flu was a serious disease and feared side-effects of the vaccine.

Health officials earlier have declared that around 750,000 Norwegians are in the “high-risk” group, because of chronic respiratory or heart ailments, pregnancy, obesity or diabetes. All health care personnel are also urged to accept the vaccine.