Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The vaccine scene

Well, I probably shouldn't type this out loud, but the Sandyshoes family has thus far managed to avoid the flu, swine and otherwise. The vaccine situation has been frustrating. I will never understand the whole business of how flu shots -- just seasonal flu, mind -- are distributed to pediatricians' offices and thence to our kids. They tell me to call in October. Last year when I called in October, they said oh, we won't have any flu vaccine until mid-November. This year when I called in October, they had already held three vaccination clinics and were completely out of vaccine. So how am I supposed to know when they have it? Telepathy? Should I start making daily calls in August? It's effing ridiculous.

Yes, I understand that every year's flu is a different virus, so a new vaccine has to be developed, tested, manufactured, preserved, packaged, distributed, etc., and that every place doesn't get delivery at the same time. But, but! The at-risk population numbers don't change that much year to year. The equipment for manufacturing vaccine doesn't have to be re-invented every year. The distribution mechanisms are the same. It's not like any given flu season is the First Time Ever. Yet every year, there's the big mystery... when will the vaccine come? How much will there be? The doctors' offices don't know. The health departments don't know. Who DOES know?

Here on the end-user side of things, we are clearly on our own. The doctor's office is no help at all. Fend for yourselves, families! So we keep our ears and eyes open for sources. We'll pay cash if we have to. We'll drive miles away to clinics we've never been to before, clinics with no direct phone line to reach anyone who can tell us if there's any vaccine actually on hand. (CVS Minute Clinic, I'm looking at you. I tried to call the specific location "nearest" me, but the only number available is the national one. Without knowing what location I was even talking about the national number person told me "there was a delivery of flu vaccine at 2:00." "Really?" I asked her. "Every Minute Clinic in the country got a delivery at 2:00? Is that Eastern Standard Time?")

Add the H1N1 vaccine into the mix this year, and with the undersupply, and the long lines, and people going nuts for every imaginable reason (there's been hysteria about whether or not it's safe, and hysteria about whether we'll be able to get it at all. So which is it, folks -- are we scared because Big Bad Government is going to inject us with we know not what? or because we won't be able to get this poison into our veins soon enough?), you just have to use common sense and hope for the best. We wash our hands, we get enough rest, we cover our coughs, we use hand sanitizer, all that.

Meanwhile, the buzz all over town is about how many kids are sick. School attendance has dropped to levels not usually seen till flu season peaks in January/February. Parents are sending hand sanitizer into classrooms by the gallon. School nurses are being very cautious: The Peanut got sent home with a "fever" one day last week. Her face was flushed and felt warm, and I got the call to come get her. I'd been at the school all morning for something else, so I knew it was especially hot in the building that day, and that the Peanut's cheeks flush at the slightest over-warmth... still, I took her home, feeling perfectly well, if very confused at having been whisked to the nurse's office. "Mommy, they think I have SWINE FLU?!" I took her temperature every hour, and it never got over 97. Still, better safe than potentially infecting everyone else.

Turns out that the girls will be able to get the H1N1 vaccine via nasal mist today. Earlier this week, parents in town got a robo-call from the Superintendent of Schools saying vaccine is available from the Town Department of Health, whom we should call to make an appointment to receive it -- and which was, of course, closed at the time of the robo-call. Anticipating not being able to get through on the phone the next morning, Mr. Sandyshoes was on their doorstep as they opened for the day (not me, I had yoga. Yay! of which more later). There were people lined up before he even got there. The nurse said that indeed, the phone was ringing off the hook -- she'd just got off the line with someone who was railing that NOBODY should be vaccinated, and who didn't want to send her kid to school with other children that had been recently vaccinated. Really. So where do you go from there? How do you answer someone who is that emotionally committed to believing the vaccine is dangerous? As Mr. Sandyshoes said, these are the people you later hear about in the news, whose children have died on their living room couches for lack of medical attention.

Immunity is A Good Thing, folks. Get some if you can. And use good sense, in any case.

(For more reasoned discussion of the anti-vax hoopla, check out the discussions at


  1. I didnt get my kids vaccinated by choice. i also know many who have been vaccinated who have also gotten sick. It's a toss up. That being said, our school system had a huge clinic on Thursday for everyone under 18 and pregnant women and caretakers, for the shot. Not sure where it came from, but it was there. (for H1N1)

  2. I too know some pretty frustrated parents whose kids vaccinated, and then got H1N1 anyhow. They were told it would've been more severe, but I can appreciate that being sort of hard to believe.