Friday, January 29, 2010

Physician Perceptions on 2009 H1N1 Differ by Country

From -- Sunday, January 24, 2010

Global market intelligence firm Synovate has released data from a study examining the physician’s view of the recent Swine Flu pandemic. The survey, which interviewed physicians from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, USA, China, Taiwan and India about their views of the subject, revealed the following findings:
  • 90% of doctors in the US feel that pregnant women should be given the vaccine compared to just 20% of doctors in China.
  • 82% of UK doctors feel the media has over-dramatized the situation.
  • 58% of European doctors have seen their workload increase as a result of swine flu compared to just 35% in the US.
  • 76% of doctors in Taiwan have been vaccinated.

The subject of swine flu vaccination had the doctors divided. Just over half of those surveyed (51%) have themselves been vaccinated, the highest number of which was in Taiwan (76%) and the lowest in Spain (21%). Whilst 37% overall had not had the vaccine nor intended to have it within the next month, 24% of this group still agreed that those under 21 years of age should receive the vaccination and 32% also agreed that frontline staff should receive it.

Overall, just over half of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that young people should be vaccinated. Opinion was much stronger in the US with 88% of doctors agreeing, compared to only 44% in Europe.

Commented Jackie Ilacqua, Head of Global Oncology at Synovate: "In the US we very much have a culture of prevention, so it is not surprising that vaccinations are so strongly encouraged. Perhaps more importantly, in this case, this high figure could be attributed to the many false negatives there have been to the H1N1 test and the resulting statistics on the number of patients affected actually being understated"

Fifty-seven percent of respondents agreed that "pregnant women should be vaccinated as soon as practical" Again, the US physicians felt most strongly with 90% of US doctors agreeing with this statement.

In stark contrast, only 20% of doctors in China agreed. Commented Robert Pollard, Director of Synovate Healthcare China: "Culturally, the Chinese are hesitant to use prophylaxis, especially so when their single child is involved. The low agreement with the statement is probably a result of doctors feeling the risks outweigh the possible benefits. We have seen in other studies in which we talk to frontline outpatient doctors in hospitals that very few of them ever consider having a flu shot even when provided free by their hospital"

Sixty-two percent of doctors surveyed agreed that the swine flu vaccine provides effective protection, while 27% were uncertain. The remaining 11% believe that it does NOT provide effective protection.

As with any issue that becomes a national and even international concern, government reaction is heavily scrutinised. Communication, support and infrastructure to deal with the crisis, as well as control and recovery are all components of an epidemic contingency plan which people expect their government to deliver on. The swine flu outbreak is no different. In this instance, when it came to government handling of the situation, opinion was pretty much split equally with 38% of doctors agreeing that their government had handled it well, 33% disagreeing and 28% neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

The Asian markets seemed to be the most satisfied with their governments’ reaction: 54% agreed that it has been well handled. In Europe, it is a rather different story with only 26% agreeing.

There was also a clear contrast between the views of primary care providers and specialists - 40% of primary care providers indicated that they felt their government had not handled the swine flu outbreak well, compared with only 28% of specialists stating the same.

Sixty-one percent of all physicians surveyed felt or felt strongly that the media in their country has over-dramatised the swine flu outbreak. There were notable regional differences in opinion: 75% of respondents in the European markets agreed, 48% in Asia, and 46% in the US.

Commented a doctor in Germany: "In Germany, we now have 80 million experts with 80 million different opinions. This very important topic has become a victim of a lukewarm election campaign played out in the media"

Perhaps the most critical were the UK doctors with a huge proportion (82%) agreeing or strongly agreeing that the British media has over-dramatised the situation.

Commented Steve Lowery, Group Head Healthcare Custom research UK: "This is hardly surprising given the often sensationalist nature of the British tabloid press. When we consider the media hysteria in recent years about both SARS and Bird Flu, perhaps it is little wonder that this time doctors feel that the risks of swine flu have been exaggerated somewhat in some parts of the media"

In China however, there was a rather different story, with a mere 31% of doctors being unsupportive of the level of media publicity in their market. As with opinion on government handling, a significantly larger proportion of primary care physicians felt the media in their market had over-dramatised the situation (72%) than specialists (55%).


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