I so wasn't going to chat about this topic at all. It's just been discussed to DEATH and so many people have differing opinions on the matter. However, Friday I made my decision so I thought I'd comment on that.
Friday I got the H1N1 vaccine at my work. Yep, totally got a needle and didn't cry at all- Yay me! Alright, let's back track so I can set up the "scene".
I work in a hospital setting as a Paediatric Speech Pathologist. That means that I see sick preschool children all the time. For some reason parents believe that Speech Therapy is more important than their child's fever/cough/snot etc. Also, most of my clients are medically fragile and have underlying health complications. The nature of speech therapy means that I get in close contacts with these kiddies who, as all you parents out there know, can't really be "trained" to cough in their sleeve. As a result, I get sick almost every year.
Since I eat healthily, practice yoga regularly and am otherwise pretty darn healthy, I'd have to assume that my immune system is crap. I also have never gone to get the regular flu vaccine... mostly because I have a phobia of needles. Mostly. That and usually I get a sinus infection and not a "flu".
Working in the hospital also means DAILY emails and updates from top health officials regarding "The Hog". After about six months of this, it's so easy to get caught up in the hysterical paranoia that is gripping the country. I knew weekly how many people had been diagnosed in Nova Scotia and how many people had died. I hadn't realized how convoluted the information regarding the vaccine and H1N1 was in the regular population as I've been only reading the Health Department's updates, which is pretty darn clear.
One aspect that is resoundingly clear; although for many individuals H1N1 functions as a bad "flu" for those who have underlying medical vulnerabilities or health risks it is a very real danger. For example, my fragile, all under 5 years of age, precious clients. Still, I wasn't sure what I was going to do about the whole "vaccine" situation.
I also didn't realize that different countries were administering different versions of the vaccine. What I can comment on is what is being done in Canada:
- Everyone gets the "dead" version of the virus via needle.
- It has been tested for safety during the past six months, which is much more than the yearly flu vaccine.
- Infants under 6 months are not vaccinated as research indicates their immune systems (still developing) do not respond or create antibodies. Therefore, the vaccine is not considered "unsafe" for infants, simply ineffective.
- Pregnant women should receive the unadjuvanted version of the vaccine. Adjuvanted vaccines have extra immune boosters such as vitamen E oil. According to the government of Canada, there has been insufficient research on the safety of these additives on the developing fetus. As all researchers would know, testing safety on living human fetus is difficult, ethically and scientifically (do you know many mothers who would offer their unborn child up for study?). As there is little research on safety, the government has decided to err on the side of caution. Makes sense to me.
- There has been sufficient data on the safety of the adjuvanted (regular) with adults (according to Health Canada, over 45 000 people have been tested worldwide for safety and the WHO conference in July 2009 determined no significant safety concerns). According to the official site, adjuvanted vaccines have been shown to boost immunity to protect 9/10 people as opposed to 6/10 with unadjuvanted vaccine. (Q5. Adjuvanted and Unadjuvanted Recs).
- The Canadian H1N1 vaccine does contain thimerosal (an alternate form of mercury). Much less than what is in a can of tuna. I won't get into it here, as I know it's a useless debate, but after reading the research from the Autism+vaccine scare, the subsequent data found to be completely fraudulent and the numerous recent studies indicating no link, I am completely comfortable with this. Needless to say that it angers me to no end how someone could call himself a "scientist" and cause so much pain and suffering to all those families who believed that a vaccine "caused" their child to have Autism. His fraudulent research got a lot of media, too bad his "outing" as a complete fake and shunning of the scientific community didn't.
So there you have it; that's what I know about the Canadian version of the vaccine. If you'd like more information I recommend the Public Health Agency Website. Still wasn't sure if I was going to get it. I hate needles (lame excuse I know) and despite all this I, along with so many, have a huge distrust with government regulations.
However, last week I had a significant scare. Saturday evening we came home from a delicious pre-birthday supper and within the period of, I exaggerate not, an hour I had a fever. The weirdest thing. Usually I'm tired and snotty for a few days before a fever comes on. Nope- one hour. The following day (my birthday) I had strange muscles soreness. Like I'd practiced intense yoga the day before and felt pretty darn tired. Weird.
Monday I went to work anyway (I hate canceling clients), but decided that I should just go home and rest instead. The muscle soreness in my legs and arms I acknowledged in a passing thought to be quite strange. Tuesday I had a severe sore throat and Wednesday I had quite a cough. I went to work those days anyway and saw quite a few little kiddies. I even had a special visit from a previous client (in grade primary now!) who has a rare immunodeficiency disorder. She came to visit and bring me stickers.
After she left I re-read the symptoms: sudden fever, check, muscles soreness, check, sore throat, cough, tiredness.... check. Holy crap. What was I doing?? All week I had been thinking that this was the weirdest flu ever, why was I at work? The health authority was recommending that health professionals stay home for 7 days after the first symptoms as that was the contagion time. Thursday I came into work, called all 12 of my Thursday and Friday clients and canceled every one. Each parent thanked my profusely. What if? I cannot even express how horrified I would be if I had, through my stubbornness in resisting the paranoia, I had infected even one of my little clients. They are so vulnerable. I lost sleep over this.
Friday I went in to work for the afternoon in order to do some paperwork and my colleagues informed me the vaccine clinic for health professionals only was occurring. I waited an hour and a half, convinced a colleague to go in with me and hold my hand (seriously I usually vomit) and got only the H1N1 (they were offering both).
I know you don't really "know" me or how I think, but I really couldn't care less about myself getting "The Hog". I know that I would survive, it wouldn't be the end of the world. I may have already had it, there's no real way of knowing. The thought of any one of my wonderful and special little people that I see getting sick because of me just makes me want to run to the toilet and spewing my coffee. They are so at risk for really getting sick, for suffering more than just "flu" symptoms.
All this to say that I got the H1N1 vaccine and no, I do not think I will have some weird adverse reaction. For myself and my work, the possible (most likely minimal) risks of the vaccine are worth the greater risk of endangering my little clients. I do believe that it is a personal choice and in no way do I judge any who have chosen differently. I'm pretty sure Andrew won't get the vaccine, which makes perfect sense. His immune system rocks, he's not at risk medically and he doesn't have contact with at risk or sick people.
I do believe that each person will make the choice that works best for them and their family. And that choice will be the right one.
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