To Be Or Not To Be – Vaccinated That Is

by DavalosMcCormack on October 15, 2009

So, here’s my dilemma. I’m a big fan of vaccinations. Well, perhaps not a fan exactly but certainly a believer in their benefit. As a kid I got an armful of everything they had at the time from smallpox and TB to polio and measles etc. I still have the marks on my arm to prove it.

A couple of years ago when I was heading to Africa I walked into the Travel Medicine clinic and asked what immunizations I needed. The nurse asked me where I was going and when I told her I was going to Ethiopia she gleefully replied “Oh goody, you get the lot.” By that she meant yellow fever, typhoid, Hep A etc. Another armful.

But despite my willingness to throw my arm out there any time a nurse comes near me with a syringe I have never had a flu shot. This year that might have to change.

I haven’t had a flu shot because I suppose I didn’t think it was necessary. I’m – touch wood – very healthy and have never had the flu so I never really felt I needed the shot.

But this year I may end up getting not just the regular flu shot but also the swine flu one too – sorry, novel 2009 H1N1 vaccination. Why? Because my boss says I have to.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. Like a lot of hospitals, the one I work at is discussing whether or not to require all staff that have contact with patients to get vaccinated against H1N1. One San Francisco hospital, UCSF, has already decided that all its nurses and front line caregivers need to be vaccinated. A number of other hospitals around the U.S. have taken similar stances. Now it looks as if my hospital is thinking about going the same route.

Quite frankly I think it’s a sensible precaution. Unlike the avian flu scare of a few years ago we’ve already seen how rampantly and rapidly the H1N1 virus spreads, so this is no idle threat. We have also seen how it is most dangerous for people who usually do OK with the regular seasonal flu; namely pregnant women and young children.

Faced with the idea of putting anyone at risk I think it’s a relatively easy decision to make to be vaccinated. I know there are many fear mongers raising all sorts of alarms about the vaccine being untested and putting people at more risk than the virus itself. But that’s just – as my brother John would delicately put it – bovine scatology. There’s no evidence the vaccine is dangerous, while we know for a fact that H1N1 can be deadly.

The concerns about H1N1 may turn out to be a lot of worry about nothing at all. It may prove to be a big bust. Let’s hope so. But right now I don’t feel confident enough to say that is going to be the case to take a chance with someone’s health, particularly as I regularly come into contact with people at our Women’s and Children’s hospital.

I don’t feel I have the right to gamble with someone else’s life.

So, for me the decision to get the H1N1 vaccine is a no-brainer.

And yet, I’m still debating if I will roll up my other sleeve and get the seasonal flu shot as well. See what I mean about a dilemma, I’m happy to be vaccinated against a possible problem but unsure about getting vaccinated against a proven one.

What do you think?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Laura Davies October 15, 2009 at 11:28 am

I recommend both the regular flu shot and the H1N1. Good for you!

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