CDC starts Web discussions on swine flu

Agency invites the public to debate vaccination policy

The Health and Human Services Department is asking volunteers on the Web to help assess public opinion on whether to go full speed on vaccinations against the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, this fall.

Starting today through Sept. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sponsoring the four-day H1N1 Public Engagement Dialogue online for volunteers who register and agree to participate.

“In this Web-based dialogue the public will discuss, deliberate, and offer input as the CDC considers whether to take a ‘full-throttle’ or a 'go-easy' approach to mass vaccination, or a moderate approach somewhere in-between,” states the CDC’s introduction.

The CDC asks participants to review materials on daily discussion topics, and then to comment on a public message board. The dialogue is occurring Aug. 26, 27 and 31 and Sept. 1. Today, 148 participants had registered and 82 comments had been posted.

After reviewing the CDC’s introductory materials on the flu, participants are asked to submit comments on what additional information is needed to know the difference between swine flu and seasonal flu. Panelists may also take part in on-the-spot polls during the dialogue, and are asked to fill out a survey and provide feedback on the discussion.

The CDC is using the WebDialogues turnkey service produced by the WestEd Inc. nonprofit educational group to hold the online discussion. The service is offered by WestEd Interactive Evaluation and Policy Research Program.

In its WebDialogues service, WestEnd is providing the Web site along with the daily agenda, daily summaries of highlights of the previous day’s discussion and expert panelists. The support includes registration services, outreach, an information library, polling and evaluation of the project.

The Keystone Center nonprofit research center, along with the Association for State and Territorial Health Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials are also participating in the event.

On Aug. 23, a White House panel warned that swine flu infections could cause as many as 1.8 million hospitalizations and 90,000 deaths in the United States. Earlier this year, the White House approved $1.5 billion in supplemental funding to control the spread of the flu.

 

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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