Tuesday, October 27, 2009

plague prevention

Well I didn't work out this morning but I had a very valid reason. I was waiting in a ridiculously long line to get both flu shots before work. Luckily my labs are part of the hospital, so asthmatic little me (who gets really sick when I get the flu) could get both the regular flu shot and the H1N1. I know the H1 N1 flu isn't too serious a strain, but for me it's worth it. My husband is coughing and appears to be coming down with the flu....I don't know if I got in on time to miss what he has, but I'm hopeful....
My doctor friends are freaking me out (since they know I've taken it) and telling me about all the potential side effects from the adjuvant in the vaccine in Canada, and admittedly I am a bit concerned at how it was rushed through approval. Still, given how VERY sick I get from complications when I do get the flu, it was not a choice for me. In addition, work paid for it, so really...I'm there. I find it strange that every province has been allowed to have their own H1N1 immunization responses and I've been ranting loudly about my province's: here the H1N1 is free for all, but the regular flu shot is open only to seniors and health care workers this year. Yup you heard right -in the past I was told it was critical to get seasonal flu shots (and I agree) because of the complications my asthma brings to the flu (usually pneumonia and bronchitis...wheee).
This year in Saskatchewan? Nada. I cannot get it any other way. I have tried to get it by other routes - I could not. Not through the immunization clinics, not through my doctor even, and regular flu clinics were cancelled to make sure the H1N1 vaccine got out to everyone.

Ridiculous I say. I was just told that I should write a letter to the minister of health about it and I have. I haven't gotten a reply yet....I'm curious to what their response will be about how suddenly a "vital" vaccine isn't necessary for me, since I need to get a vaccine to a less virulent form of flu instead. My coworkers and husband are sick of me ranting about it. Luckily now it's moot. I have both.
As a microbiologist I get the theory: Yes H1N1 is a new strain of flu never gotten before by humans. That means if you are exposed you will catch it. Period. End of story. You have no built up immunity to it yet - our whole species is lacking...but since it's much milder than the average flu, it's not such a huge risk unless you're old, very young, pregnant or have heart/lung conditions. Honestly, I think they are responding well, as if this was more virulent, we'd be screwed. Really , we would. As it is there will be a lot of missed time at work for a lot of people this fall. I know someone who's brother had H1N1. They said it was a mild flu. Not that big a deal for the average person.

I was struck this weekend by the deep chill of fear about a *real* pandemic. I mean, what if the next pandemic is more like SARS? Or worse...something that kills healthy people on a mass scale? Something very contagious? When we were at the mall this weekend I saw someone very sick and thought..."wow...that's how it would begin". Slowly 1 or 2 people would be sick, then more and more and by the time we tried to limit exposure people would be sick all over the place...health care providers too. I mean, it happened with SARS on a small scale. The plague in Europe and the spanish influenza knocked out huge chunks of the population. In our modern age with increased sanitation and very good immunization programs, those of us living in the developed world have no concept of what a strong pandemic could do. We don't see our loved ones die of illness like even our parents did. I've never seen anyone with polio or the measles...and I think it makes us a bit soft. Despite the rare risks from a limitedly tested vaccine, I was in line this morning, yawning away, to get both vaccinations. (for the company's info sheet on the vaccine being distributed in Canada, go here. Make an informed choice. The last 4 pages are standard patient info and the rest is all the info gathered on it that your doctor would get. Ask your doctor about it. I'm guessing he's smarter than me :) )
I count myself as lucky. Vaccinations are important. I cannot risk giving flu to my Mum, Grandma or my little neices or nephews-they could get very ill. It's really about the community health, not just me. Handwashing and good hygeine will help keep you well - but there is no serious harm in getting vaccinated.
If I was not asthmatic I don't know as I'd get the H1N1 vaccine until I saw more data about the vaccination affects, simply because I'm a bit paranoid, and I like to know things are well tested before I take them. The vaccine company's website lists all the testing done on the vaccine, and it is far from thorough and complete in my opinion. There are complications (like any medication), and age gaps in testing results and pregnant women (in my opinion) should not get the vaccine with adjuvant - it's not know what it will do to them. There will be an adjuvant free vaccination for them and small children. This vaccine just is not as well tested as the other vaccinations we have. Yet, in my opinion, safe enough to take for the average person. I am definitely provaccination. I know the difference in my health when I get this vaccine. I'll let you know if I develop a third arm or have a wierd complication K? K.

Here's hoping I miss the flu this year :)


Much later in the day: I am tired...arms still sore, but I'm still here. Pretty much what happened last year when I got the shot. :)

1 comment:

Tom Bailey said...

I am never sure how vaccines are going to work so what I do is really just focus on keeping my mind positive and eatting and sleeping right.