Saturday, October 31, 2009

When Comments Go Horribly Wrong (h1n1 and me)

Updated - see below...

Maria wrote about H1N1 over at her blog, and asked, why some people are choosing not to be vaccinated.

Here's my ridiculously long comment, which didn't fit in her comment section:

Fact: There will not be enough flu shots to vaccinate everyone.

So, why are people (yourself included) trying to talk people who are reluctant into getting the H1N1 shot? It just doesn't make any sense.

I'm leaving the vaccines for those who REALLY want them by choosing not to vaccinate my kids - people who are at greater risk than we are. I think that's GOOD, altruistic even, both for the person who gets the shots we would've gotten otherwise and for our community - the sickest or those at greatest risk will be more likely to get vaccinated because of my selflessness. :)

I'm not saying it's a conspiracy - I'm just saying it's illogical to push a vaccine on a healthy, low-risk, reluctant family when there are immune compromised, high-risk people in our community who need it more than we do.

I have concerns about the H1N1 shot. I know my history, and I know what happened in the 70s with a similar swine flu vaccine. The additives (adjuvants) that people are concerned about are Squalene (suspected by many to cause Gulf War Syndrome, and to have caused Guillain-Barré syndrome in 1976, and not FDA approved, incidentally) and Thimerosal (formerly suspected of causing Autism, but it has since been pretty conclusively proven not to. On the other hand, it DOES contain mercury, and I don't think it's very smart to inject a known neurotoxin - something you're not even supposed to touch with your hands - into growing bodies, whether it causes Autism or not!).

I do not get my children routine flu shots, although we have gotten shots for the deadly or crippling stuff (polio, rubella, etc.). We do not get shots for inconvenient stuff like the flu. I want their bodies to become immune to those things the old fashioned way - by being exposed - because I think it'll make them healthier in the long run. There have not been longitudinal studies on the effectiveness of getting a yearly flu shot - as adults or elderly people will they be dependent on yearly shots because their bodies never learned to produce their own immunity? I don't know that. No one knows.

We also refused Hepatitis B at birth - my kids aren't allowed to have sex or use IV drugs until they're at least 6 months old! That comment got me several raised eyebrows from the nurses. Incidentally, we also refused the eye gunk (I know I don't have any STDs) and the vitamin K shot (no one in our family has any sort of clotting disorder). Clearly I am a problem patient.

Of all the thousands of people I have known in my entire life, only ONE has had any sort of serious side effects from getting the flu. She got the flu really, really badly but delayed seeking medical help until her kidneys had already been severely damaged (this didn't happen immediately, by the way - I think it was over the course of several days). She ended up having a kidney transplant, and now she's fine (although she does have to take thousands of dollars worth of anti-rejection meds for the rest of her life).

I know of no one who has died of the flu. Most of the people I know do not get the flu shot yearly.

On the other hand, lots and lots of children died of polio, etc. and those aren't curable, so we get those shots.

The one exception is rotavirus. We declined it with MG (because it's not deadly), then she got it when I was pregnant with C, and it SUCKED (we ended up in the ER), so C got the vaccine and so will any future Prettybabies. MG now has natural immunity, thanks to surviving the virus.

Live and learn, I guess.

IF H1N1 becomes a Very Big Deal in our local area - then we will try to find the vaccine or we'll quarantine ourselves at home until it goes away. However, the vaccine isn't even available here right now. We were offered the Flu Mist, but I declined because it's a live (weakened) virus, and unless we could get everyone in the house vaccinated, I didn't want to have the kids shedding virus (because they would - as they built immunity) while living in the house with BJ (who isn't eligible to get vaccinated). It's a dead virus shot or nothing for us.

I also don't think it's socially responsible to send the kids to school with other children who may or may not have been vaccinated and who may or may not have immune system depression when they're shedding live virus - the only way I'm getting my kids a live vaccine is if I can keep them home for 3 weeks, and that just isn't feasible for us right now.

Interesting side note - my doctor didn't know that the nasal vaccine (Flu Mist) was live. We had a little discussion about it before he went and checked, and sure enough, I was right. So, those with degrees don't always know better. (But good for him for admitting his mistake! I know he's human and makes mistakes, like everyone. I don't expect my doctors to be all knowing and all seeing - it's my job to go in there educated and make my choices based on what I know to be true, while taking the doctor's opinion into account, of course.)

Anyway, a study came out of Purdue that said that MOST of the population is going to be exposed to H1N1 before they're even able to get an H1N1 shot, anyway

So I can avoid the possible risks and side effects of the vaccine, knowing that EVEN IF WE GET IT it won't make much difference.

I don't think H1N1 is going to be a big deal. I really don't. Again, I know history - and the media has done this to us before. Ebola, SARS, Bird Flu, Killer Bees, Sharks. It goes around about every 2 years, and they get everyone all worked up, and then .... nothing.

I'm not going to risk the possible side-effects of the vaccine when:

1) it won't probably do us any good even if we do get it - honestly if it is as bad as the media says, we've probably already been exposed at this point, and

2) given the media's history of hype, H1N1 isn't probably going to be a big deal, anyway, (see also: the boy who cried wolf). The same Purdue study I linked to above said that less than half of the people who are infected will become ill, AND that most of the people who do become ill will be "mildly" ill. And

3) there are people who want and need the shot a whole lot more than I do - those who work in health care and in schools and with the public, those who have immune system issues, etc. They're welcome to it. We'll be fine.

There you go. My reasoning, complete with links.

I'm not saying that you're wrong if you're choosing the vaccine, by the way. I'm not even trying to talk you out of it! Each family has to do their own cost/benefit analysis and do what's best for them in their situation - just like virtually every decision in parenting. I'm merely sharing the decision that we have made. I hope it helps you make yours, or at least I hope it helps you understand mine.

(By the way, our "wait and see and try to get the shot if H1N1 becomes a big deal locally" was the approach my dad recommended to us, and he's a nurse, too. So our nurses cancel each other out, Maria. Haha!)

And P.S. I've already enumerated my concerns about school-based medical procedures here.

Updated to add: Thanks to Aunt Kathryn's comment, I've spent most of the day reading (when I haven't been doing battle with my kids - is there a brattiness vaccine I can get them? Srsly! WTF?).

I was wrong. Squalene is not in the current swine flu vaccine. There are thimerosal-free vaccines available, if you are concerned about thimerosal. See this article on Flu Myths for more information.

I'm not sure how this is going to change things for us. I still don't think that H1N1 is going to be a big deal. The vaccine is still unavailable in our area. I'm still waiting-and-seeing. If I get a call from our doctor's office saying, "Hey, we've got the shot," and meanwhile there have been a dozen deaths in our town from H1N1, or they've closed the schools or something, I'll probably get it for myself and the kids. On the other hand, if I get a call saying, "We've got the shot," and none of the schools have closed and no one's died, it's going to be a harder decision.

I probably ought to call the doctor's office and see if they've got vaccine available. When we saw Dr. MWMH a couple of weeks ago, he said that they'd have the shots in a couple of weeks. I'm not sure how they're notifying patients.

All of this almost makes me wish for a mandatory vaccination program - it would be easier to decide what to do if someone else would decide for me!


strwberrryjoy said...

Hilarious title...the post I linked and quoted was what spurned my commentary... I really don't like to get into the debate factor mostly because it's entirely a waste of time. I am more explaining my logic as to getting vaxes for our family. I am not trying to sway people either way. That's pretty pointless. And I did point out that shots are avaible here either. My comment on the link went just got entirely too long and turned into a comment on vaxes in general as well...I did enjoy reading your response though. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic.

Cate said...

See, elucidative! You made so clear all of the things I've been thinking about regarding this vaccine, as well as bringing up some things that I hadn't thought about in quite that way. Thanks for your lucid writing.

Lesley said...

We are so conflicted about the vax. Like you, we skipped the eye ointment at birth...and the Hep B. My pediatrician went a little freakish about it. We had it around a month and I did my best to keep used needles away from the babe. :>

Now, this vax is confusing. My toddler had the regular vax last year and did fine. But, he also got a really terrible bout of the flu---scared us badly. We did a delayed schedule on MMR because of some other factors for my son (stroke in-utero). Our doc was cool with it and he seemed to do fine.

I think we're going to get it. One of my ONLY local friends nearby is pregnant and we hang out a lot with her and her toddler. I am a bit scared by how pregnant women have seemed to have done the worst with this h1n1 flu. Being able to hang out with my friend, who is pregnant, is one of my biggest lifelines right now and I'd hate to pass anything on to her, even though we'd handle the flu okay.

Thanks for this post...I hate the scare business. I'm really hating how they want everyone to get the stupid vax, but we can't even get it!

kelly said...

well said. pretty much exactly how i feel about it, but you say it so much more eloquently. :)

Kathryn said...

In resopnse to several of your issues you might want to check the site. First off, there will be plenty of vaccine to go around and children 6 months - 4 years of age are in the high risk category. The government has purchased the vaccine and is administering it FREE of charge. Secondly, there is no squalene in the H1N1 vaccine and all of the single dose vaccines are thimerosal free. As for the shedding of the live virus there is concern for immunocompromised household contact only. Check out the site it's full of correct information. Both of my kids have been vaccinated - Kelly 2 weeks ago with the live virus (and we didn't catch anything from her) and Ian got his first dose on Friday with no ill effects. Please reconsider your decision - even if you and/or your kids do get that mild case, think about all those people that you come in contact with that you will unknowingly expose to the virus. The only way to stop the spread of the virus is to practice good hygiene and to get vaccinated. And by the way, I was vaccinated agaisnt the 1976 swine flu and didn't have any side effects even with the problems experienced back then.

Anonymous said...

Could this possibly be more confusing? I feel your pain. If you may become pregnant in the near future, doesn't that put you into a higher-risk category right now for H1N1 (even though the feds don't necessarily put you into that higher-risk category until you actually get knocked up)?