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Britons and Americans turning thumbs down on H1N1 vax

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With one segment of British society fearful of the potential side effects of a new swine flu vaccine and another large group shrugging off the pandemic as much ado about nothing, more than half of the island's population is saying no to the shot. And it's not solely a British phenomenon. A new poll from CNN/Opinion Research reveals that 55 percent of American adults will shun the vaccine.

Doctors surveyed by Pulse magazine in the UK say that pregnant women are among the hardest to persuade to get vaccinated, even though they are among the most vulnerable to the H1N1 virus. "In all the pregnant women we've offered it to, I think only about one in 20 has agreed," said Dr. Chris Udenze, a family doctor.

While swine flu has killed more than 7,000 people worldwide, the UK's earlier estimates concerning the possible spread of the virus have had to be scaled down twice. Those revisions have only enhanced skepticism among many that swine flu is something to be afraid of. At the very least, a large number of people seem more scared of the vaccine than they are of the virus.

Epidemiologists have been learning plenty about the way the world greets a pandemic. Of key concern are the huge numbers of people who refuse to get vaccinated. Without widespread use, society loses the herd protection that can be afforded the occasional naysayer. But if more than half of the population bows out, a more lethal virus would do far more damage. Luckily, swine flu is typically quite mild, making the current pandemic a dry run for future outbreaks. Not all the lessons learned are comforting.

- here's the story from Reuters

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