Low-income Americans with no more than a high school education appear more likely to get vaccinated against H1N1 swine flu than people with more money and better schooling, according to a poll released on Friday. A telephone survey of 3,003 U.S. adults conducted by Thomson Reuters found that 49.8 percent of people with lower education levels were very concerned about H1N1, compared with only 29 percent of those with at least a four-year college degree.
Forty-five percent of the less-educated said they and their families were likely to vaccinate, while only 36 percent of college-educated people expected to be immunized.
All told, 47 percent of those surveyed said they were unlikely to seek vaccination.
Flu fears also ran high among 43.3 percent of people with household incomes of $25,000 a year or less, compared with just 30 percent of people with annual incomes of $50,000 or more. Forty percent of poorer Americans said they intended to get vaccinated, versus just over a third of all respondents.
The data suggest that less privileged Americans may be more apprehensive about swine flu because they are more likely to feel the brunt of its economic impact, which can range from days away from work to an expensive stay in the hospital.
“One interpretation of this is that those people with lower levels of education and lower income are more concerned and are more likely to vaccinate given the potential financial impact,” said Gary Pickens, chief research officer at the Thomson Reuters Center for Healthcare Improvement. Thomson Reuters is the parent company of Reuters.
“There’s a greater degree of vulnerability and hence a greater degree of caution,” Pickens added.
Less-educated lower earners are also more likely to be among the 46.3 million Americans who have no health insurance.
The uninsured make up about 15 percent of the U.S. population but account for 20 percent of people who only have high school diplomas, one-third of people with less than a high school education and about 25 percent of those earning under $25,000 a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
PEOPLE OVER 65 MOST LIKELY TO BE VACCINATED
The Thomson Reuters survey did not ask about health insurance or access to doctors, and Pickens stressed the findings were not likely to make strong predictors of whether someone will actually get vaccinated.
The survey, conducted October 5 to 15 and with a 1.8 percent margin of error, also illustrated some of the challenges that U.S. health officials face trying to coax members of the public into getting immunized against swine flu.
The contagious swine flu virus poses the greatest health risks for children and young adults, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions including asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Unlike seasonal flu, H1N1 appears to have relatively little danger to the elderly.
But the survey said people 65 and older were among those more likely to be vaccinated, while less-educated young people who registered strong concern about H1N1 said they were unlikely to seek immunization.
The data represent a segment of the Thomson Reuters PULSE Healthcare Survey, which polls 100,000 U.S. households each year about healthcare behaviors, attitudes and utilization.