Background: On the 30th September 2009, the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza vaccine was made available to adults and children aged 10 years and over, in Australia. Acceptance of a novel vaccine is influenced by perceptions of risk including risk of infection, risk of death or severe illness and risk of serious vaccine side-effects. We surveyed a sample of residents from Sydney, Australia to ascertain their risk perception, attitudes towards the pandemic and willingness to accept the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza vaccine.
Methods: We sampled residents using a cross-sectional intercept design during the WHO Phase 6. Members of the public were approached in shopping and pedestrian malls to undertake the survey during September and October 2009. The survey measured perceived risk, seriousness of disease, recent behavioural changes, likely acceptance of the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 vaccine and issues relating to uptake and perceived safety.
Results: Of the 627 respondents, the majority felt that they had a "very low to low" (332/627, 52.9%) risk of acquiring H1N1. 24.5% (154/627) of respondents believed that the disease would "very seriously or extremely" affect their health. Nearly half (305/627, 48.6%) reported that in response to the "swine flu" outbreak they had undertaken one or more of the investigated behavioural changes. Overall, the self-reported likelihood of accepting vaccination against novel H1N1 was 54.7% (343/627).
Conclusions: While, most participants did not believe they were at high risk of acquiring pandemic H1N1 2009, over half of the sample indicated that they would accept the vaccine. Participants who were vaccinated against the seasonal influenza were more likely to receive the H1N1 vaccine. Concerns about safety, the possibility of side effects and the vaccine development process need to be addressed.