My old boss used to say that I am like a duck -- seemingly calm on the outside but paddling furiously underneath. That's how I feel about H1N1, I think I feel pretty zen about it but then the panic shoots through me and I am trying to calm my wild thoughts. The randomness of the deaths is frightening and feeds my anxieties about unknown and uncontrollable forces at work in the world. (Yes, I know there are often underlying conditions but sometimes you don't know if you, or your kids has any underlying conditions.)
And the only thing that will make me feel better is when every member of my family gets that vaccine.
I am not going to argue the merits of getting a vaccine that will stop you from random death. I am not going to tell you how ridiculous the idea of swine flu parties are. Ok, I am. What if you decide to skip the vaccine and you get H1N1 -- when you are lying there with such intense achiness that even your eyelids hurt, you are not going to be happy about your decision (no matter how much weight you lose). And when your kids get it, and you are up all night with them coughing and you can't get the mental image out of your mind of the dad on the news who lost his son in 24 hours, you are not going to think that it was a good idea to skip the needle. And even worse, is the people you don't know about. The people who maybe have underlying conditions who you infect before you know you are contagious -- people who can't get the time off work or don't know how to negotiate the health care system or infants who can't get the shot -- you could pass on your germs to the most susceptible and start a terrible chain of events.
Also see: H1N1 vaccine: What you need to know
In fact, I can't even understand why people find this a hard decision. Its the same as the other flu vaccines, it is 90 percent effective and it saves you worry. Yes, it has a small amount of mercury in it, just like a can of tuna. Life is not a conspiracy forced on you by Big Pharma and evil genuises.
So since, I feel so strongly about the vaccine, you think I could figure out where to get it. But I can't. I can't figure out the city clinic schedule (are they only giving to high risk groups this week or are they opening it up because of demand?) Will it be too crowded? Will I sit their with my kids freaking out for three hours and just catch it while I'm waiting there?
Everytime my doctor tells a parent that she thinks their child has swine flu -- they cry. H1N1 is pulling their office resources, even without the vaccine every person who has walked in their office this week has wanted to talk swine flu, and so has every phone call. The messages coming from Public Health have been so vague that the doctors are confused and therefore the parents are also confused.
But one thing my pediatrician is sure about is to get the vaccine. She is a bit of a "what if" kinda person (that's why we are such a good match) and she says that the vaccine is about the only thing we have to protect ourselves. And what if your child got into trouble with the flu, wouldn't you want to know that you had done the best you can?
So call your family doctor. Some will have it and some won't. Some doctors aren't allowed to have it if they don't have the right storage facilities and some have decided that the incredible amount of paperwork and extra adminstration that public health is demanding is too burdensome. My pediatrician's office isn't sure when they will have the vaccine. And they aren't sure how they are going to administer it either but they want to send a message to their patients that they support getting the vaccine. As for me, look for me with a big book (maybe Patricia Pearson's A Brief History of Anxiety, yours and mine -- she has a healthy flu pandemic phobia) , a venti coffee and a bottle of hand sanitizer at a clinic line-up.
Ironically, we woke up this morning and my daughter has a sore throat and a fever -- is this the big one? Let the panic begin...
But then I read Andre Picard in the Globe and Mail, and I feel slightly better, as if he came and punctured the panic baloon...slightly. He says "Between complacency and panic is a vast territory - one we should occupy actively, by working, by going to school and, yes, by trick-or-treating." Can I, can any parent live in that territory is the question?