Heightened Flu Awareness Prompts Interest But Not Action

- National Survey Highlights Barriers Preventing Family Protection against Seasonal Flu -

MISSISSAUGA, ON, June 2 /CNW/ - According to the Canadian Flu Report released today, 40 per cent of parents are now more interested in vaccinating themselves and their children against seasonal flu following last year's H1N1 outbreak(1). Yet, significant barriers and misinformation are still preventing many from actually seeking proper flu protection for their families.

Despite the Canadian Pediatric Society recommending that children six months of age and older be immunized against seasonal flu(2), only a third of parents surveyed plan to have their child vaccinated this year(1). Sixty per cent of parents believe that seasonal flu is not as serious as it is made out to be, and half indicate immunization against it is unnecessary(1).

"Over the past year, we saw a lot of change when it came to conversations about flu - including a big shift in focus from seasonal flu to H1N1 - and that may be partially to blame for the misconceptions that Canadian parents have about seasonal flu and its severity," says Dr. Michael Libman, Director, Division of Infectious Disease, McGill University. "The fact is seasonal flu is a serious and very contagious disease, especially in children as they are more likely to carry the virus and transmit it to others."

SURVEY REVEALS BARRIERS FOR VACCINATING CHILDREN

School-age children are more susceptible to seasonal flu during community outbreaks, and immunization in this population has been associated with a decrease in death and illness in the elderly as well as in preschool children(3). While research reinforces children are a main source for flu infection(4), the Canadian Flu Report reveals as many as 47 per cent of children have never had a flu vaccination in their lives(1).

"Parents acknowledge the benefits of hand washing and hand sanitizer as crucial steps in flu prevention, but immunization is clearly not seen as important, despite it being the best defence to ensure that you and your family are protected," says Dr. Libman. "In addition to the obvious health-protection benefits of the seasonal flu vaccine, the ability to reduce the burden on the health care system is also significant."

Economically, a recent study found universal immunization against seasonal influenza to be an effective intervention. Ontario's universal influenza immunization program (UIIP) reduced influenza cases by 61 per cent and mortality by 28 per cent. This reduction in influenza cases decreased health care services cost by 52 per cent, mostly due to hospitalizations avoided(5).

Critical factors guiding parents' decisions to immunize revealed in the Canadian Flu Report included safety and effectiveness of the seasonal flu vaccine (58 per cent), recommendation by a health care professional (43 per cent), duration of immunity against seasonal flu (28 per cent), and a convenient location to receive the vaccine (26 per cent)(1). Approximately one in 10 said how the vaccine is administered (12 per cent) and discomfort experienced when receiving the vaccine (nine per cent) are important considerations(1).

Among the parents who did not vaccinate their children in the past year, six per cent cite their child's fear of needles as the reason(1). Sixty per cent of all parents felt a nasal administration would offer a preferred method of delivery for their children(1).

"Further education and new advancements in vaccine technology will make the immunization process much easier, so there will be no excuses not to get vaccinated," says Dr. Libman. "Summer may be around the corner, but the next flu season is only a few months away. Canadians need to think about their approach and ensure they are informed and prepared for another flu season which, as we saw last year, may be unpredictable in terms of severity, duration, and timing."

ABOUT THE CANADIAN FLU REPORT

Conducted by Vision Critical and commissioned by AstraZeneca, the survey was designed to identify perceptions and attitudes toward the seasonal flu among Canadians aged 18 and older with children two to 17 years old. The online survey was conducted between March 16 and 21, 2010, using a sample size of 1,008 respondents, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

ABOUT ASTRAZENECA

AstraZeneca is committed to the research, development and manufacturing of valuable prescription medicines. We have an extensive product portfolio spanning six therapeutic areas: gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, infection, neuroscience, oncology and respiratory. AstraZeneca's Canadian headquarters are located in Mississauga, Ontario, and a state-of-the art drug discovery centre is based in Montreal, Quebec. For more information, please visit the company's website at www.astrazeneca.ca.

    
    References:
    -------------------------
    (1) Canadian Flu Report. Angus Reid Public Opinion and AstraZeneca
        Canada. March 2010.
    (2) Canadian Pediatric Society. Vaccination and your child.
        http://www.cps.ca/caringforkids/immunization/VaccinationChild.htm.
        Accessed April 21, 2010.
    (3) MacDonald, N et al. Managing Seasonal and Pandemic Influenza in
        Infants, Children and Youth. March 31, 2010.
    (4) Loeb, Mark et al. Effect of Influenza Vaccination of Children on
        Infection Rates in Hutterite Communities. Journal of the American
        Medical Association (JAMA). March 10, 2010 - Vol. 303, No. 10.
    (5) Sander, Beate et al. Economic Appraisal of Ontario's Universal
        Influenza Immunization Program: A Cost-Utility Analysis. Public
        Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine. April 2010 - Vol. 7, Issue 4.
    

SOURCE AstraZeneca Canada Inc.

For further information: For further information: Jennifer Dolan, Edelman, Tel: (416) 979-1120, ext. 257, jennifer.dolan@edelman.com; Daniela Cohen, AstraZeneca Canada, Tel: (905) 277-7111, daniela.cohen@astrazeneca.com


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