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Mpls, MN, United States

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I just returned from being vaccinated against Swine Flu. I generally get a seasonal flu vaccine; the U gives them out free and encourages all of us to "Do it for the Herd!" Especially when I was TAing and interacting with hundreds of undergrads a week, it just made sense. (And last year I got to help set a Guinness World Record!)

This year, they ran out of seasonal flu vaccine very early on, and let us know they wouldn't be getting any more. They also had low supplies of H1N1 and were only vaccinating high-risk groups. They've apparently come into quite a large quantity of the vaccine recently, however, and are now encouraging everyone to get vaccinated.

Several months ago, I had been hesitant about receiving the vaccine. Wasn't the whole H1N1 thing just another big scare, inflated by the media? Sure, it was a little daunting that it was the young and healthy who seemed to get the sickest, but did we really all need to freak out?

And then I heard this on NPR, the title of which pretty much sums it up: "Debate Over H1N1 Vaccine? There Shouldn't be One." Physician Douglas Kamerow, former Assistant Surgeon General and research scientist, explains concisely and clearly why the vaccine is safe, an effective defense against a dangerous disease, and the responsible option for public health. He convinced me--as, I'd like to think, scientific evidence and respected authority generally do. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned low supplies, getting the vaccine earlier wasn't an option for me. Now it is, but I probably wouldn't have thought about it if I hadn't heard, again on public radio, public health officials encouraging people to get the now-widely-available vaccine.

I booked an online appointment at the student health center, where I was told I could get either the standard injection or the nasal spray. Not having a particular fear of needles (though I do if they contain a tetanus booster), I was happy to leave the spray for those who do. However, I was assured that there was plenty of each and that I was free to choose either. Figuring it was a no-brainer, I chose the nasal spray and was directed to a friendly nurse who had me blow my nose before she stuck a little wand up each nostril and dispensed a puff of vaccine. I got to remain fully dressed, sustained no puncture wound, and won't have any bruising.

What blows my mind, though, is that at least half of the people around me seemed to be opting for the injected vaccine! I think these nasal vaccines are the future; I'll take that option any time.

Anyway. This is National Influenza Vaccination Week, and I think it makes sense to be vaccinated, whether you opt to be poked or to inhale. The most intelligent and trustworthy sources I know are encouraging it, after all--and who wants to get sick, anyway?


BrianV said...

" . . . the title of which pretty much sums it up: 'Debate Over H1N1 Vaccine? There Shouldn't be One.'"

Amen to that! Isn't that the case for most of what we debate in America these days? The facts are out there, but by generating "debate" we can pretty much render them useless.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against debate as a learning process. But so much of are debate today exists simply as informational terrorism. It is used not to enhance learning, but to destroy it.

Holly Marie said...

the vaccine is finally available to us illegal immigrants in taiwan, so we are going to get ours next week.

it is so true how many people are irrationally anti-vaccine. as a teacher, it is frustrating to come across parents like that.

not to mention, most americans working with us here are terrified of taking advantage of the wonderfully cheap healthcare just because it is not the u.s.! apparently all countries outside the u.s., canada and the e.u. are third world countries...

by the way, interesting article! i did not realize it was legal in the u.s.! now our find is less exciting... :)

Leah said...

I haven't had the H1N1 vaccine. I don't usually get the flu shot anyway, not out of unreasonable anti-vaccine feelings, but because I'm at the lowest possible risk group. I don't even interact with undergrads, even though I work at a university.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure I'm still not eligible for the swine flu shot here. I've only seen notices for the usual suspects group, to which I don't belong.

CëRïSë said...

Brian, I agree completely: debate can absolutely be a useful forum for learning about others' beliefs and exploring one's own; I think the "informational terrorism" you mention (good phrase!) occurs when a "second side" to an issue is presented as a "differing opinion"--equal to the "opinion" of the first (climate change comes to mind). Data aren't opinions, and although there often are crazies on both sides of an argument, at some point real evidence (interpreted by experts) needs to get due credit.

And Holly, if only we had affordable healthcare like Taiwan's available here! I'm boggled along with you at the irrational fear that keeps some away, and am glad you're spreading the word about your experience. Oh, and enjoy that Green Fairy! =)

CëRïSë said...

Oh, and Leah, your comment only just showed up for me! I'm actually quite low-risk this year, too--yay for limited contact with undergrads! (Though the U does sometimes feel like a tightly-contained and crowded mini-city of its own, with daunting potential for germ transmission.)

Teri said...

When I was vaccinated at the hospital in Nov. I was told the nasal spray was for those under age 50 and the injection for those over.

CëRïSë said...

Ter, at the clinic I went to, people under 50 could choose between the injection and the spray; I guess those older had to get poked. But even people my age were opting for the needle! So weird.

Nothing said...

I got an email from WWU about "free" H1N1 vaccines for teachers...yet when I called to make an appointment I found that I did not qualify since I wasn't even "half time" as far as their standards went. This...upset me...just a bit. Oh well.

CëRïSë said...

Jeremiah, that's terrible! As if contract teaching weren't already so fraught... with... goodness.

The NPR article said we'd already paid for the vaccine with our taxes, and that at most one would be charged an administration fee. Sorry that WWU's so lame-o!

Skol Girl said...

Gotta try the nasal mist version of the vaccine next year. Completely forgot they even had that when I got my H1N1 last week. I don't have a fear of needles, I just have a fear of all the people who seem to feel the urge to grab my arm for no good reason when it is sore from my vaccination.

CëRïSë said...

Welcome, Skol Girl! I feel you on the arm thing--ouch--and wholeheartedly recommend the spray.

Amy McHenry said...

I think that you can get the H1N1 vaccine for free if you go the public health department. That's where we got ours. We were in a risk group because we have a baby under 6 months in the household. People with certain health conditions (like asthma) can't get the nasal mist vaccine. Malachi (my two year old) can't get it because he has a history of wheezing, but he didn't cry after his shot--I was so proud.

CëRïSë said...

AMY! I didn't even know you read here--welcome! Thanks too for the hot tip about the public health department; I'll pass that along. Good luck with the little ones!