Atlanta » As the first wave of swine flu vaccine crosses the country, more than a third of parents don't want their kids vaccinated, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.
Some parents say they are concerned about side effects from the new vaccine -- even though nothing serious has turned up in tests so far -- while others say swine flu doesn't amount to any greater health threat than seasonal flu.
Jackie Shea of Newtown, Conn., the mother of a 5-year-old boy named Emmett, says the vaccine is too new and too untested.
"I will not be first in line in October to get him vaccinated," she said in an interview last month. "We're talking about putting an unknown into him. I can't do that."
The AP poll found that 38 percent of parents said they were unlikely to give permission for their kids to be vaccinated at school.
The belief that the new vaccine could be risky is one federal health officials have been fighting from the start, and they plan an unprecedented system of monitoring for side effects.
They note that swine flu vaccine is made the same way as seasonal flu vaccines that have been used for years. And no scary side effects have turned up in tests on volunteers, including children.
The AP poll, conducted Oct. 1-5, found 72 percent of those surveyed are worried about side effects, although more than half say that wouldn't stop them from getting the vaccine to protect their kids from the new flu.
Giving flu shots to schoolchildren is also an idea many parents are still getting used to. It was only last year that the government recommendation kicked in for virtually all children to get it. Seasonal flu vaccination rates for children last year ranged from about 48 percent for toddlers to about 9 percent for teens.
It traditionally takes a while for parents to learn about and accept a new vaccine and years for immunization rates to grow, said Matthew Davis, a University of Michigan Medical School associate professor who has overseen polling on flu issues.
Special flu vaccination clinics at schools are being planned in many states. Children are the main spreaders of infectious disease, and if large numbers are coming down with the flu, there are ripple effects for everyone else.
The AP poll found 59 percent are likely to let their kids be vaccinated at school.
A survey Davis directed suggested one reason for rejecting the vaccine is that about half of parents said they did not consider the H1N1 flu any worse than the seasonal bug.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appealed anew Wednesday for widespread inoculation against a surging swine flu threat, calling the vaccine "safe and secure." Sebelius unconditionally vouched for the safety of the vaccine, saying it "has been made exactly the same way seasonal vaccine has been made, year in and year out." Appearing on morning news shows to step up the Obama administration's campaign for vaccinations, Sebelius said that "the adverse effects are minimal. ... We know it's safe and secure. ... This is definitely is a safe vaccine for people to get." Sebelius was asked on CNN about surveys showing many parents were wary of getting their children vaccinated for fear the vaccine has been too hastily prepared and wasn't safe. She replied that it was targeted specifically at the H1N1 virus and was "right on target with an immune response."