60% Would Get Smallpox Vaccine Despite Risks, Poll Finds
Nearly 60% of Americans would get a vaccination for smallpox if it were available, even after being informed of its risks, according to a new poll conducted for the Associated Press by the research company ICR. The AP/Contra Costa Times reports that the majority of respondents to the poll -- which questioned 1,003 people between Nov. 9 and Nov. 13 -- said they would want the live-virus vaccine for smallpox even after being informed of its risks, which include encephalitis, a "smallpox-like rash" or death. If every American were vaccinated for smallpox, approximately 400 of them would die, the AP/Times reports. About 50% of those polled said they are "concerned" about the threat of a smallpox attack. Forty-five percent of respondents said they believe that last month's anthrax attacks are the "beginning of an extended campaign" of bioterrorism, with people ages 18 to 34 twice as likely to think so as people ages 65 and over. About 25% of respondents said the government's response to the anthrax attacks made them feel "more confident in the government's ability to protect citizens from future terrorist attacks," while "almost as many" said they now have "less confidence." Around half of respondents said the handling of the anthrax incidents "has not affected their confidence level." Democrats were two times more likely than Republicans to say they had lost confidence. Some of the "continuing concerns" may be due to "bad information," the AP/Times reports, pointing out that one in four respondents erroneously believe anthrax is contagious. The federal government is stockpiling the smallpox vaccine in case of terrorist attacks, but has no plans to vaccinate the general public for smallpox (Lester, AP/Contra Costa Times, 11/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.