Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Hog- My one and Only Post

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.

Many Blessings

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. I think that was a very brave thing to do. I hope all those other health professionals out there are able to come to the same decision as quickly as you did, where they need to. XXX

  2. I'm so glad to have read what you and Alex have written about this subject. As you know, I wanted to talk about it, too - the paranoia, etc.

    It sounds like you and I have the same work environment - CONSTANT discussion about this! More like, constant stats, constant fears, etc. The things I hear everyday frustrate me to no end!

    Oh, I'm so tempted to talk about it right now! I'm holding back, though.

    Anyway, it seems like you made a wise choice based on your circumstances. I don't think H1N1 OR the vaccine are THAT big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, so it bugs me that the government is making such a hoopla about it. Not that there aren't some very serious issues to consider here, and not to say that there isn't a danger, of course. But the constant fearful thinking and fearful speaking makes me feel that we are just making it worse, and making ourselves more vulnerable!

    BTW, I often fall ill at this time of year - usually colds. Stress is a killer for me. Every time I experience intense stress, I am sick within 24 hours. No fail. Ironically, I workout every day, eat SUPER healthily, and make sure to ingest about a million superfoods every day, ha ha. Meanwhile, Brian eats processed foods and sugar at every meal, more soda than water, never works out...and he never gets sick. Not fair!

  3. Gawd...I can't belieeeeve you're blogging on this topic...

    All I know is I had some kind of flu just at the time the big swine flu (that's what it was called then) scare happened in the spring...and it really wasn't bad enough to bother going to the doctor's, making it basically fit the description of the version of swine flu that affected a bunch of schoolkids in NY right around that time. So, given that and the fact that I'm still far, far more likely to die in a car accident, or from one of a whole bunch of other diseases, than from H1N1, I'm not too worried...though, should I happen to go the doctor's for some other reason and, as tends to happen this time of year, he asks if I want a flu shot, I'll probably take it...and I'm sure it'll be a lot more pleasant than those damn tetanus shots that make my arm hurt for days...which serves me right, I guess, for walking around barefoot in cow pastures...

  4. Rose: thank you! I thought I was being brave :)

    Greenspell: I agree- the government is making a HUGE deal about it here too. blegh. However, after the hours and hours of waiting and craze and crowds, they have JUST decided on Friday to only offer the vaccination to high risk individuals, and the rest of the population will get it "later". so- perhaps they are regretting the hype?

    Dr. Jay: I KNOOOWW!!!! ugh. I can't believe it either.
    I got a tetanus shot once- for opening the bar fridge door on my face... lol. oh the tales of a former bartender.
    also- this vaccine totally still makes my arm hurt, and we're on day four. it sucks.

  5. I hope you feel better soon! As you can imagine, the gov't down here is all in a tizzy about Ye Olde Swine as well. I'm too old to get the vaccine, so I'm just crossing my fingers and taking my vitamins. Funny: a bar I pass on my way to work is offering "H1N1 shots" for $6. I really want to try one!

  6. this is really interesting, I live in Montreal..and would like to get my 5 year and my one year old vaccinated but I am very skeptical.. thanks for the info

  7. There seem to be so many variables that go into being sick I just do not think or concern myself with it.

    As a viewpoint... maybe it is not the truth... I see sickness as a great thing that it is ridding my body of weakness... so as long as it does not kill me I feel like I am stronger and more the person I am supposed to be... but again a viewpoint that may not be close to the truth.

    Thank you for sharing all of this.

  8. Ontarians are in a frenzy over it, especially after that 13 year old boy died. They've set up flu shot clinics, but they've been totally overwhelmed, and the government is now asking that only people who are at a higher risk (children, pregnant women) get the vaccine. Even so, a colleague of mine had to wait five hours outdoors in the rain Saturday morning to get her 18 month old daughter vaccinated. It's nuts.

  9. First, I LOVE the blog banner. I read you in reader and did not see it!

    Second, could you email me? I have a proposal. (mystery...)

    pinkyogi at gmail dot com

    Thank you!

  10. You are SO brave for over coming your fear of needles and getting the vaccine. Smart girl! I have been struggling with this myself too. I should get H1N1 vaccine, my sister has already been infected (shes a nurse) but I am not 100% sure about the vaccine yet... Yup, its the new hot debate right?

    You certainly have provided a wealth of information here and I'm sure we are all very greatful for that!!

    Good health, and many blessings,
    Bret =)

  11. Hope you're feeling better soon. I was prepared to get the shot,though not for myself as I am really healthy and hardly ever get sick even though, like you, I am constantly coughed, sneezed and snotted on by my 2-8 year old daycare kids. However, because I am at low risk. I probably won't be able to get mine for quite some time and I am starting to rethink getting it. While most of my under 5 kids have had theirs, some have chosen not to get it for their kids and half my older kids are not going to get done...unless their parents change their minds when their turn comes. So should I still get a shot even though parents are choosing not to get their own child inoculated...even though they are eligible now for the shot...By the time my turn come I think the worst would be over anyway.


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