FLU NEWS SCAN: Response to dual-use guidelines, pandemic risk perception

Mar 30, 2012

Congressman sees positive step in new dual-use research policy
A US congressman who earlier this month formally questioned the government's safeguards for dual-use research today said yesterday's release of a new federal policy governing research oversight is a positive step. On Mar 1 Rep Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., sent a letter to the White House's Office of Science and Technology, asking why the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) didn't consider dual-use issues until after the two federally funded H5N1 transmission studies were completed. Sensenbrenner, vice chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, also asked how the US government would balance national security priorities with the free flow of science information and asked for a response by Mar 31. Yesterday, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched a new life sciences dual-use research policy that requires federal agencies to routinely review the risks of research conducted on 15 "high consequence" pathogens and toxins, including highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu. In his press release today, Sensenbrenner said he was encouraged that the Obama administration is taking his concerns seriously. "The new policy guidelines are a positive step, but I will monitor them as they are implemented," he wrote. "Open access to research is critical to the protection of public health, but we must assess the risks and benefits of dual use research in its early stages and implement adequate controls if necessary to protect the American public."
Mar 30 Rep Jim Sensenbrenner press release
Mar 29 CIDRAP News story "US debuts life sciences dual-use research policy"
Mar 5 CIDRAP News story "Details of H5N1 study spark queries from congressman, experts"

Study: Public risk perception low during 2009 H1N1 pandemic
A series of public surveys during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and vaccine campaign in Germany found that risk perception was low, even when flu levels were peaking. German health officials conducted 13 telephone surveys from Nov 2009 to Apr 2010 to also monitor vaccine uptake in real-time, and they presented their findings yesterday in Eurosurveillance. Germany's vaccine campaign targeting high-risk groups launched in late October, a couple weeks ahead of the pandemic's peak. Vaccination using mainly the AS03-adjuvanted vaccine was extended to all groups in the middle of December. In total, the surveys reached 13,010 participants. At the pandemic's peak, only 18% respondents perceived their risk as high, a number that fell to 10% by January 2010. Researchers wrote that uptake of the vaccine in Germany was particularly low, even in target groups. The surveys found that most people felt informed enough to make decisions about vaccination, and they were more likely to get their information from conventional media sources rather than the Internet. Fear of adverse events and perceptions that the vaccine wasn't adequately tested were some of the top reasons for avoiding the vaccine. The authors suggested that health officials work to build more long-term trust in public health measures.
Mar 29 Eurosurveillance report

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