Many Americans hold incorrect beliefs about smallpox and smallpox vaccine

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Public willingness to be vaccinated against smallpox depends on whether physicians choose to get vaccinated

If physicians are reluctant to be vaccinated themselves against smallpox, large numbers of Americans will be unwilling to do it voluntarily. Also, if there are deaths from side effects of the vaccine, the public will be less willing to be vaccinated. “Depending on events, many Americans may be cautious when deciding whether or not to take the smallpox vaccine,” said Robert J. Blendon, professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. The study also showed that the majority of Americans hold a number of beliefs about smallpox and the smallpox vaccine that are incorrect, based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These misconceptions could lead some people to make inappropriate decisions about how they should respond to the threat of smallpox. These findings, based on interviews with 1,006 Americans nationwide between Oct. 8 and Dec. 8, 2002, appeared in the Jan. 30, 2003, print edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The Harvard study was funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.