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Canadians give passing grade to all government levels on flu handling: poll

TORONTO - Canadians think governments at all three levels have done an OK job of handling the H1N1 flu, though many also think the risk was exaggerated, a new poll suggests.

TORONTO - Canadians think governments at all three levels have done an OK job of handling the H1N1 flu, though many also think the risk was exaggerated, a new poll suggests.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests that as concern is waning among Canadians, they are generally satisfied with how their governments responded to the pandemic.

Nearly three-quarters - or 73 per cent - of those who took part in the survey assessed Ottawa's performance as good or fair, and the numbers were similar at the provincial and municipal levels. That's up from 61 per cent last month, when there were distribution challenges with the vaccine and lineups at clinics were hours long.

"It struck me that some of the things that were most likely to be causing people a problem at the last time that we asked had been taken care of," said Doug Anderson, senior vice-president of Harris-Decima.

Provincially the biggest change was 41 per cent of respondents in Alberta saying their government was handling H1N1 poorly, as opposed to 61 per cent one month ago.

At that time the controversy had just erupted over Calgary Flames players and their families getting the vaccine when others were finding it more difficult to get. That issue and the others have since been resolved, Anderson said.

Now, many clinics have closed, and the rate of new infections seems to be dropping, based on hospitalizations, with declines being reported in all provinces and territories.

That appears to be reflected in a receding level of concern among those surveyed. Just nine per cent said they were very concerned about swine flu, compared with 11 per cent two weeks ago and 22 per cent three weeks before that.

The survey also found that most of those polled have either already received the vaccine or decided they won't be getting it, leaving just 12 per cent of respondents who said they still intend to get vaccinated.

"I think that Canadians are probably learning where this fits in on the risk spectrum," Anderson said.

"They've either taken measures and feel comfortable with the measures they've taken, like the vaccine, or it's less prevalent and therefore the risk has receded."

The telephone survey of about 1,000 Canadians was conducted between Dec. 10 and 13, and has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Just days after the survey was conducted Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, warned against complacency, saying a third wave could come in the new year.

But the survey suggests most Canadians have already made up their minds about the vaccine. Forty per cent of respondents have received the shot and 45 per cent said they would not get it.

Anderson said he found the reasons people provided for why they will not get vaccinated somewhat surprising.

Almost 50 per cent of those who said they weren't going to get the shot said it was because they felt the risk was exaggerated and there really is no need to get vaccinated.

"There have been a lot of hypotheses over time about why people aren't getting vaccinated," Anderson said.

"Some stories were: maybe it's a lack of access or the sense the process is too time consuming or maybe the vaccine itself is something I'm concerned about in terms of its safety or side effects."

But just 19 per cent of those who said they're not getting the shot said it was because of vaccine concerns, while three per cent said they didn't believe in vaccines.

Four per cent said they had already had the virus, three per cent said they meant to get vaccinated but didn't get around to it and 20 per cent gave other reasons, including two per cent of people who said lineups and/or vaccine shortages were the main barrier to getting the shot.

 
 
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