Friday, November 6, 2009

Quit your swining...

Hi! How are you? Are you going to get the H1N1 shot?

Lately, this is what passes for conversation. Never before have I used the words "shiraz" and "squalene" in the same sentence, but you asked what my weekend plans were...

Ah, vaccines. They kill us/save us, depending on who you ask. They are either the greatest example of medical advancement or proof of government conspiracy - pork barrel politics, if you will. I've heard the Illuminati are involved, but one can't be sure.

I have many conflicting emotions over this issue. I feel at once:

  • concerned. I don't go looking for viruses just like I don't go looking for trouble. I avoid them like the plague! Sometimes, however, they find me, virus and trouble both. I'm concerned enough to keep hand sanitizer at the clinic front desk. I'm concerned enough that I wash my hands even more than normal, and then sometimes spray alcohol (rubbing, not schnapps) on them for good measure. I'm concerned enough that I've bookmarked this site, which tracks the number of deaths associated with H1N1 in Canada.
  • skeptical. Did you click the link above? Uh...101? Out of 33,834,093 people? I am so sorry for each one of the victims and their families, but I wonder if we are exposed to more FEAR than virus?
  • apathy. All the information and misinformation becomes jumbled in my brain, and then I remember that I do not currently have a flu, swine or not, and that to date, I don't think I've ever had a serious flu, of any combination of letters and numbers. I simply don't feel like I'm going to DIE from the FLU tomorrow, and so apathy sets in, and I admit I'm inclined to wait a bit, and see what happens.
  • suspicion. Something's not kosher. Squalene in the vaccine... a few weeks of testing... deadly pandemic vs. mild flu variant... everyone either wants my money or my arm or my defiance.
  • fear. I'm suddenly in the position of having to make a decision for another person. At 9 months old Oliver hasn't yet decided what he thinks of flus and vaccines and all things porcine. But he's awfully little, and I dislike the prospects of him facing such an intense virus and such an intense vaccine.
  • phlegm. This isn't really an emotion per se, but Oliver and I have runny noses, and I'm loath to ask our bodies to fight an injected version of a virus (among other things) while we are currently fighting a virus. Give a body a break.
  • ennui. Swine flu? H1N1 still? Isn't this soooo last spring? Can we get over this? Let's talk about something more current. Like the balloon boy.
  • concern again. Sure, it's just a virus. But... it seems to be a fast virus. And an unpredictable virus. And a nasty virus. Fast, unpredictable and nasty, the kind a nice girl like me was told to stay away from.
So here we are. I'm still unsure of how my family will proceed, but we're formulating some plans. There are strong arguments on both sides of this issue, and I think in the long run we benefit by dispensing information and letting the individual decide what is best for themselves. Those who chose to vaccinate feel safe knowing that they are protected while contributing to 'herd immunity' (though the reference to 'herds' is a little touchy (incidentally, a herd of pigs is called a drove. Who knew?)). Those who decline the shot feel better about avoiding the less savoury vaccine ingredients (thimersol, squalene... yum!). We are all playing the numbers game, irrespective of which side we are on. And people aren't exactly dying in droves (catch that?).

Catch that?? The odds favour us, irrespective of what we do. Some people will have vaccine side effects. The vast majority will not. Some people will become seriously ill with H1N1. The vast majority will not.

The point is, we're going to be ok. Breathe. We. Are. Going. To. Be. OK. So make your decision using research and consideration and instinct, get on with your life, and quit swining about it!