Over the past few weeks, we have been debating back and forth in our household the issue of the H1N1 vaccine - whether or not to get it. I have read about many of the issues surrounding it, listened with interest to other parents debating it, followed some of the news reporting about others who have struggled with the dilemma, and so on.
We are not people who generally get the flu shot when it comes out in fall - in part because the vaccine is often inaccurate in targeting the most common types of flu that end up invading the country; and in part because I don't think it's terribly harmful (albeit annoying and inconvenient) to come down with a case of the flu in order to build better immunity.
H1N1, we have decided, is in a bit of a different ballpark. Right or wrong, we have decided in favour of getting the vaccine for the three of us...though now we have to wait for the clinics to re-open to people who are not in the high priority list.
A few factors were predominant in our decision:
1. First and foremost, if Matthew did contract H1N1 and it was, somehow, in the more severe categories of the illness, I would forever question my decision not to vaccinate. I read one story recently about a mother based in London, Ontario whose child died from what they believe is H1N1; her plea to the public was to "go get it." I don't want to live with that regret.
2. It will be a bit more relaxing to get through this winter without the fear of H1N1 looming over our heads. In our household, we are hand-washers - it is the first thing we do when we come in to the house and has been for several years already. We also use a Norwex hand sanitizer when out in public, before eating or doing other things that put us at risk of being contaminated by some virus or another. So we already take normal precautions and, in fact, we aren't sick very often. However, being currently un-vaccinated for H1N1, I find myself worrying now about what additional precautions we should be taking and I admit to getting a bit paranoid every time Matthew rubs his nose in public places or hangs out with a group of kids. I think this fear may be somewhat lessened once we have the vaccine in our system.
3. I've read in several reputable places that these types of severe H1N1-like illnesses seem to rear up about every fifteen years or so - to me it is worth getting the vaccine for this one.
4. Health Canada reported just yesterday that Canadians should anticipate a rising death toll from H1N1 in the coming weeks/months because Canada is currently experiencing a greater influx of the disease.
There are other reasons as well, but these are the ones that come first to mind when I think about why we are going to go ahead with the vaccine.
A few days ago, I heard a CBC interview with a Guelph-based physician who summed up my reasoning for deciding to get the vaccine. He said that he doesn't think that the vast majority of people who contract H1N1 will experience it in a life-threatening manner; however, even those who contract a milder case of it will be very sick. His perspective was that he'd rather not experience even a milder case and thus sacrifice a week or two of his life to H1N1.
So, for better or worse, we've decided to get the vaccine once clinics re-open for non-priority folks. Anyone else out there decide differently and want to share your reasons?