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Inside Politics

Poll: Most don't blame Bush for flu vaccine shortage

Majority of Americans point finger at drug companies

By Michael Ludden

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America Votes 2004

(CNN) -- A new national poll suggests most Americans do not blame President Bush for the current shortage of flu vaccine.

But they do attach some blame to the government.

A CNN / USA Today / Gallup poll released Tuesday shows just 17 percent of respondents said they blame Bush a "great deal" for the shortage. An additional 18 percent said they blame the president a "moderate amount."

About 62 percent of those surveyed said they do not blame Bush very much, or not at all.

The shortage of vaccine has been an issue in the presidential campaign.

When the shortage hit, the Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry, said it showed a failure on the part of the administration to forge a health care plan. Kerry blamed the Bush administration for not paying attention to warning signs about possible shortages.

The shortage first became an issue on October 5, when British authorities said they were suspending production of the vaccine at the Liverpool plant of Chiron Corp., an American company, because of contamination problems. (CDC asks some to forgo flu vaccination)

Chiron had contracted to deliver to the United States 46 million to 48 million doses, nearly half of the country's projected need of 100 million doses. (Inspectors can't vouch for safety of flu vaccine)

After Bush suggested healthy Americans should skip a flu shot this year to leave more vaccine for those who most need it, Kerry said the administration's bottom-line approach to health care was simply "don't get sick." (More flu shots will be available in January)

The vaccine shortage leaves Americans with a supply of about 54 million doses of vaccine made by Aventis Pasteur, based in Strasbourg, France, and 1 million to 2 million doses of a nasal form of the vaccine called FluMist, made by MedImmune Inc. of Mountain View, California. (America's only flu shot factory in high gear)

Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said it's too soon to tell if there will be a flu crisis this year.

The poll, conducted from October 22 through 24, showed 30 percent of Americans blame the government a great deal for the shortage, and an additional 37 percent blame it a moderate amount. Only 29 percent of respondents did not blame the government. (Special Report: America Votes 2004, the polls)

Most Americans appear to believe the drug companies are at least a part of the problem.

About 47 percent blame the drug companies a great deal; another 31 percent blame them a moderate amount. And just 19 percent blame drug companies "not much," or "not at all."

Bush, in his second debate with Kerry, said the country is looking for other sources of vaccine, but he said that is difficult because vaccine makers are afraid of getting sued and had "backed off" from providing vaccines.

Some Americans say they agree. About 18 percent blame trial lawyers a great deal and 23 percent blame them a moderate amount. About 53 percent don't really blame the lawyers.

The poll had 1,538 adult respondents, with a sampling error of three percentage points.

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