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Open Access Highly Accessed Original research article

Analysis of public responses to preparedness policies: the cases of H1N1 influenza vaccination and gas mask distribution

Baruch Velan1*, Valentina Boyko2, Gilead Shenhar3, Liat Lerner-Geva25 and Giora Kaplan4

Author Affiliations

1 Genetic Policy and Bioethics Unit, Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, Tel-Hashomer 52621, Israel

2 Women and Children’s Health Research Unit, Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, Tel-Hashomer, Ramat Gan, Israel

3 Trauma & Emergency Medicine Research Center, Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, Tel-Hashomer, Ramat Gan, Israel

4 Psychosocial Aspects of Health, Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, Tel-Hashomer, Ramat Gan, Israel

5 Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel

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Israel Journal of Health Policy Research 2013, 2:11  doi:10.1186/2045-4015-2-11

Published: 27 March 2013

Abstract

Background

During several months in 2009–2010, the Israeli population was asked to take part in two preparedness programs: Acquisition of gas masks against a potential chemical-warfare attack, and vaccination against the A/H1N1 influenza pandemics. Compliance with the first request was moderate and did not attract much attention, whereas compliance with the second request was very low and was accompanied by significant controversy. The aims of this study are to compare the public’s attitudes towards these two preparedness campaigns, and to explore the roles of trust, reasoned assessment, and reflexive reactions in the public’s response to governmental preparedness policies.

Methods

The comparative analysis was based on a telephone survey of 2,018 respondents representing a cross-section of the adult Israeli population. Univariate analysis to describe associations of public response and attitude was performed by Chi-square tests.

Findings

A set of queries related to actual compliance, trust in credibility of authorities, personal opinions, reasons for non-compliance, and attitudes towards uncertainties was used to characterize the response to mask-acquisition and vaccination. In the case of mask-acquisition, the dominant response profile was of trusting compliance based on non-conditional belief in the need to adhere to the recommendation (35.6% of respondents). In the case of vaccination, the dominant response profile was of trusting non-compliance based on a reflective belief in the need for adherence (34.8% of respondents). Among the variables examined in the study, passivity was found to be the major reason for non-compliance with mask-acquisition, whereas reasoned assessment of risk played a major role in non-compliance with vaccination. Realization of the complexity in dealing with uncertainty related to developing epidemics and to newly-developed vaccines was identified in the public’s response to the H1N1 vaccination campaign.

Conclusions

The newly identified profile of “trusting-reflective-non-complier” individuals should be of concern to policy makers. The public is not accepting governmental recommendations in an unconditional manner. This is not driven by lack of trust in authorities, but rather by the perception of the responsibility of individuals in confronting forthcoming risks. Nevertheless, under certain conditions the public may respond in a non-reflective way and delegate this responsibly to authorities in an uncontested manner. This leaves the policy makers with the complex challenge of interacting with a passive non-involved public or alternatively with an opinionated, reflexive public.

Keywords:
H1N1-influenza; Acceptance; Public-trust; Gas-Masks; Preparedness