Saturday, November 7, 2009

S-whine Flu: Tales from the Front Line

The doors of the health department wouldn't open until 8:00 a.m., but there were already 200 people ahead of me when I joined the line at 7:30 a.m., Tiny Baby and his stroller in tow.  The county had announced earlier in the week that it would hold its first open H1N1 vaccination clinic for young people, ages six months to 24 years - and anxious parents and sleepy children snaked around the building in the cool sunlight.

The announcement threw me - and most of my friends with kids - into a panic: Would there be enough vaccine?  How would the clinic work?  How early should we get there?  Would children vaccinated that day be guaranteed the second dose they need a month from now?

Husband and I rambled our way to a decision to vaccinate our boys.  Tiny Baby was born at the height of the H1N1 hysteria this spring, but after the pandemic left the 24-hour news cycle this summer, we pretty much put it out of our minds.  When talk of a vaccine resurfaced this summer, Husband and I, normally total adherents of standard Western medicine, dismissed it without much discussion.  I am embarrassed to admit that I was influenced in part by the new news cycle, in which anti-vaxers seemed to share equal airtime with pediatricians and epidemiologists.  Soon though, the voices of reason rang out clearer and louder and Husband and I decided that there was no compelling reason why our pro-vaccine stance should not apply in this case.  From that point of rational decision-making, I became increasingly worried, with H1N1 percolating in the schools and periodic reports of vaccine shortfalls.  From my initial position of indifference, I swung completely to the other end of the spectrum, even considering pulling Big Boy out of his morning activities just to avoid contact with other kids.

Then Husband, Big Boy, and I were lucky enough to be vaccinated a few weeks ago, when the vaccine first became available in our area for pregnant women, medical personnel, and household contacts of infants under six months.  At the time, Tiny Baby was still under six months and the health department suggested that it would not be getting the pediatric vaccine at all.  Figuring that the wee one would be protected if all of us were, we eagerly got the nasal spray and my nerves calmed again.

But then this latest announcement came and I was thrown into a panic yet again: only 1500 doses for every child in the county?!  And only one five-hour window?!

I had trouble sleeping last night, nervous thoughts dancing through my head.  I am a person prone to anxiety, particularly where my children are concerned.  And I now realize that the swine flu, or really the constant talk about it, hit me in the most vulnerable place.  Subconsciously, we live every moment of our lives to protect these innocents.  At first, I minimized H1N1 because I didn't want to acknowledge a new threat in our midst.  And then, when I realized the naivete of that point of view, I felt like a lioness, willing to do anything to protect my cubs.

Happily, all I had to do was wait in a pretty long line and then snuggle Tiny Baby while he got a shot in his chubby little thigh.

And then join the line for the exit, full of parents whose faces had transformed from pinched and determined to open and relieved now that their pups had received those magical doses.  And give thanks once again that another predator was held at bay.

Have you and your children been vaccinated yet?  How has the media affected your perceptions of the vaccine and your decision to give it to your kids?

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