Most Canadians are skeptical of the swine flu threat and of the vaccine to fight it, a survey suggested on Monday as the country's largest-ever vaccination program in Canada got underway.
Fifty-one percent of 1,000 Canadians surveyed by polling firm Strategic Counsel for the daily Globe and Mail newspaper said they would not get vaccinated against the deadly A(H1N1) flu virus, while 49 percent said they wanted a flu shot.
The poll gave no margin of error because the respondents answered voluntarily through an online survey. A similar survey in July showed 62 percent saying they planned to get a swine flu shot.
The split reflects lingering concerns that the vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline has not been fully tested and that the influenza outbreak is not very serious, pollster Tim Woolstencroft told the newspaper.
"There has been a real drop-off in the desire to have the vaccination shot," he said, due mostly to safety concerns and the view that health officials "have been crying wolf too many times" about the threat posed.
The swine flu has so far contributed to 86 deaths in Canada, more than 1,500 hospitalizations and close to 300 critical care ward admissions, according to Health Canada.
Even so, 59 percent of respondents said they believe the swine flu is no more dangerous than the common cold. Only seven percent thought it could be life-threatening.
Aboriginals, youths and medical staff -- groups believed to be most at risk of serious infection -- received the first round of swine flu shots on Thursday.
A national vaccination campaign kicked off Monday.