Thursday, November 19, 2009

H1N1 - To Vaccinate or Not?

We've just gotten back from town after getting both our seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccinations. We stood in line for about 30 minutes, had our pokes, and waited afterwards for the requisite 15 minutes to make sure we weren't going to be the one in three million who inflates like a puffer fish and needs adrenaline to breathe. Even so we were in and out in less than an hour.

Apparently the media has had a difficult time sorting out their feelings about H1N1 and the vaccine. On Monday they invest their voices with the right note of concern/hysteria and quaver, "Booga! Booga! BOOGA! We're all going to DIE!!!!!!"

They then interview an expert in a lab coat who says, "The flu vaccine will kill you if the flu doesn't. Either way, it's now clear we are all going to die! Well, some will die, or the vaccine will turn you into a monkey or give you a case of the munchies.... uh... no, it might give you a fever, hmmmmm, it could make your arm sore!" (Looks around desperately) "Are we on-air?"

Tuesday, the talking head on the news says, "Booga Booga seriously overblown."

They then interview an expert in a bow tie and perky manner who says, "Actually H1N1 isn't as bad as the regular flu, hardly more than a cold. Don't worry, be happy! The flu vaccine is probably not even necessary. Epidemic is now over, we're safe as houses or mother's milk" (Thinks of the recent real estate crash and reports of pesticide contamination in mother's milk and reconsiders his words) "It's certainly not lethal." (Looks around desperately) "Are we on-air?"

Wednesday, is "BOOGA Day". (with panicked expert)

Thursday is "Have No Fears" day. (with reassuring expert)

Friday Booga. (with panicked expert)

Saturday... "Do we have to talk about this H1N1 still? Does this story still have legs? No? Okay.... There will be dance recital Monday put on by the Sam Butler School fourth grade class.

Sunday... "Ten students from the fourth grade class at Sam Butler Elementary have H1N1, We're alllll going to die!!!! Vaccinate vaccinate!! (interviews with panicked expert, principal, parents)

We've listened to this nightly revolving door with a panic attack in two of the four sections for months. No wonder some people can't make up their minds whether they want the vaccine or not. Can we have some sanity here, or do all TV journalists now graduate from the Hen House School of Journalism where there's nothing to worry about until an acorn falls from a nearby tree? Then it's mayhem in the hen house.

The polio vaccine became available in 1955. While parents were terrified that their child would contract polio, horror stories circulated about the new vaccine. It was said that the vaccine would cause polio, or that your child would be "contaminated" by it. The same arguments were used then and now. My parents were afraid to have me vaccinated. So while all my classmates trooped off to have their vaccinations I sat in the classroom and waited by myself.

A year later after a field trip I woke up with a severe headache and nausea. Mother told me to get out of bed and stop whining. Dad checked and said, "She's burning up!"

Within 72 hours I could not move a muscle, and could barely breathe. I had paralytic polio, the only case in our school that year, because everyone else had been vaccinated.

I missed the rest of that school year and part of the next. I stopped growing. I am the same height now as I was shortly before my 11th birthday. I had to learn to hold my head up, sit up, use my hands, stand, walk, even chew and swallow solid food. I got carried to the year's end picnic. In junior high someone else carried my books, and I was dismissed early from each class so I could crawl the steps alone. I wore braces and I still walk funny.

My parents loved me and thought they were doing the right thing. I barely missed dying and I have had to contend with near constant pain, a crooked spine, and less than half the muscle mass I should have had in neck, traps, arms and legs, for the last 52 years. And on top of HypoKPP having polio has not been an experience which made my life easier.

Tony and I stood in line today for both H1N1 and seasonal flu shots because we are old enough to remember when there was no choice. And we figure there's no point in taking the risk of getting the flu, whether the panic over the situation is overblown or not.

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