Why I Got The H1N1 Vaccine

Until a couple years ago, I hadn’t realized that influenza can be so deadly.  When I was growing up, my parents would say, “Oh, it’s just the flu,” when one of us kids got sick.  In all likelihood, they were wrong.  You don’t wonder  if you have the flu.  When you have the flu, everyone around you knows that there is something seriously wrong.  If you feel like you “might be coming down with something” then it’s not the flu.

From the comments section of Notes From A Country Doctor’s  Sick of Flu post:

What’s scary is seeing 25 year old otherwise completely healthy people linger on ventilators for a month only to die from “just the flu”.

I highly recommend John Barry’s The Great Influenza to anyone who just doesn’t see what the big deal is about the flu.

From Musings of a Distractible Mind’s  Hype? post:

I don’t think the fear of the H1N1 is misplaced.  The normal flu kills over 30,000 people per year, and the H1N1 is expected to infect three times more people than the usual flu (for reasons I will go into in the next podcast).  The implication of this is that even if this flu is “nothing special” it will kill over 90,000.  Put in perspective, prostate cancer killed 27,000 men and breast cancer killed 41,000 women in 2008.  A “normal” potency H1N1 virus could then kill more than both of these combined.

My husband and I had the flu nearly three years ago.  It hung on… and on… and on…  We both ended up with pneumonia.  Eventually a trip to the doctor had my husband feeling better in about a couple weeks, but I was extremely sick from January until May.  After that illness my hips started hurting, and my knees, and my shoulders.  And my hands.  My feet were the worst.  When my feet touched the floor in the morning, I would cry out in pain, it hurt so bad.  Eventually I was diagnosed with a disease that will never go away.  Had I not gotten the flu in the first place, it would not have progressed to pneumonia and my immune system might not have kicked into overdrive.  The very reason for this blog might not exist if I had simply gotten a flu shot that year.

Vaccine

In spite of the deadly outcome for many people, it doesn’t necessarily follow that one ought to get vaccinated.  I know people who object to the flu vaccine because at one point someone convinced them that all vaccines are bad (ie they’re not singling out flu). Others have no objection to most vaccines, but figure that they’re young and healthy so their odds of being killed by “just the flu” are pretty slim.  Still others have fears about the safety of this particular vaccine.  From KevinMD:

Reasons for refusal include a fear of side effects, including the perception that the dead virus contained in the injectable form of the vaccine can cause disease. This is false…

Some also fear the manufacturing process, saying that the vaccine was “rushed” to production. This is another myth…

Then there are those who have no objections to vaccines or staying healthy, but in consultation with Dr. Google have heard a variety of theories in relation to this particular vaccine.  Theories that the flu-like illness is man-made and was released by the government because “the government hates you and wants to kill you.”  Or they’ve heard that the vaccine is really a biological weapon.  Maybe they’ve heard that Al Qaeda is behind the swine flu.

Sound far-fetched?  Maybe it’s more believable that PETA is behind H1N1, engineering a deadly disease in hopes that adding swine flu to bird flu and mad cow will make mankind finally realize that animals should not be eaten or made into pets.

Other theories have their basis in economics:

  • Only one company in the world makes the vaccine, but they were going bankrupt.  Facing layoffs, they chose instead to spread the disease, thus ensuring work for the company and jobs for its employees.
  • A similar theory says the same thing, substituting “surgical mask manufacturers” for “vaccine” maker.
  • Yet another story has it that TV news is going the way of print media, so “they” broke into a secret government lab, stole the virus, and used press passes to gain worldwide access, thus unleasing H1N1 on the entire planet.
  • Others even claim that doctors needed more patients to treat, therefore the medical profession unleashed this disease to create more business.

Others argue that the swine flu specifically targeted Mexico:

  • Mexico has a high percentage of Catholics, and H1N1 was unleashed to kill off this religion
  • Labor unions released H1N1 to kill off cheap labor
  • U.S. anti-immigration officials are using this as a way to close border

The above is just a sample.  There are a multitude of conspiracy theories out there.  That doesn’t make any of them true.

Is The Swine Flu Vaccine Safe?

At Mayo Clinic’s website, the answer to this question is a short:

Yes. Its nonvirus components are the same as those used in the seasonal flu vaccine, which has been tested extensively and monitored for serious reactions for several years. The only difference is that in the swine flu vaccine, novel H1N1 virus replaces the influenza A viruses used in the regular vaccine.

A more detailed article can be found at WebMD.  It addresses these issues:

    Is the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine safe?
    Isn’t the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine too new to trust?
    Why should I believe what government scientists say about swine flu?
    Does the H1N1 swine flu vaccine contain thimerosal?
    The 1976 swine flu vaccine wasn’t safe. Why should I trust this one?
    Do we really know what drugmakers are putting in the swine flu vaccine?

Johns Hopkins’ Arthritis Center has a video discussing Seasonal Flu & Novel H1N1 Flu Vaccinations

Information is also available at the CDC’s website:  H1N1 Q&A  and the handout your doctor will provide if you get the shot.

I’ve  chosen to reduce my chance of getting the flu by getting vaccinated.  All things considered, it seems the prudent thing to do.  When you come down with influenza, one minute you appear to be perfectly healthy, and the next thing you know, you feel like you got hit by a bus.  It is not something to mess around with.  On top of that, I am in the group of people at high-risk for complications with this disease.  Anyone who has had a bad case of the flu will do whatever they can to avoid going through the experience ever again.