H1N1 has been on my mind these last few days because a couple of very young people have suddenly died from this flu. It is all I have been talking about with my family and friends, and it's all I've been talking about on Twitter, too.
I'm the type of person who has a hard time deciding what to wear each day. I have a hard time deciding on what colour - what shade of brown - to paint my walls. I am a very indecisive person. Making decisions does not come easy to me, and I often need re-assurance by other people. Mostly by my family and close personal friends, but I value the opinions of my online community, too.
I have lost sleep and calories (meaning, I keep forgetting to eat!) because I have been debating the H1N1 vaccine for several days now. Yes, people die every year from the regular flu, but H1N1 seems to be a far worse flu for various reasons. Young, healthy people are dying everyday from this flu. Our hospitals are seeing many cases of this flu daily. In some cases, very severe cases. It's just scary. At the height of my worry, a few months ago, I was hoping 'they' would come out with a shot to help everyone stay healthy.
Finally, a vaccine was approved in Canada. And then there were doubts... doubts about the safety of a vaccine that was made so quickly, doubts about the ingredients this vaccine contains, doubts overall.
I have read everything you can imagine from the Public Health Agency of Canada website, from the Health Canada website, and other medical articles. I have read all the Q's and A's. I have read articles from the World Health Organization. Basically, everyone across the board - and by everyone I mean all the experts, the doctors, the researchers and scientist - all say the vaccine that is out right now is SAFE and effective.
The vaccine that is currently available in Canada contains Thimerosal, which, as we all know, contains a small amount of mercury. The amount of mercury in this vaccine is about the same as the amount of mercury found in a can of tuna. Nothing I would worry about. Also, Thimerosal is in all the flu vaccines that are given out in Canada, anyway, from what I've heard. It's nothing new. The controversy around this preservative has never been proven; in fact, the fears have been all but dismissed as completey untrue. My doctor says not to worry. That it is safe. It's such a small amount.
The vaccine we have in Canada contains an 'adjuvant' - basically, an element that includes a substance that boosts a person's immune system and increases their response to a vaccine. An 'unadjuvanted' vaccine has no booster element. Adjuvanted vaccines are in other common vaccines, like tetanus shots. The adjuvant in Canada's H1N1 vaccine is made up of natural ingredients like water, squalene oil and vitamin E. Squalene is a naturally occuring substance found in plants, animals and humans. After reading about this obsessively, the conclusion is that it is safe.
In June of this year, the WHO held consultations on the safety of adjuvanted influenza vaccines to discuss known and theoretical safety concerns. The outcome of the WHO consultation was that no significant safety concerns or barriers to evaluating or using adjuvanted vaccines for the current H1N1 virus were raised. All evidence is suggesting that the adjuvanted vaccine is just as safe as the unadjuvanted vaccine. Apparently, the adjuvanted vaccine offers greater protection than the non-adjuvant vaccine.
The bottom line is this - if we can prevent a serious flu like H1N1, we should do whatever we can. Washing our hands more frequently, coughing and sneezing into our sleeves, staying home if we are sick, eating healthier, taking our vitamins.
And getting vaccinated if there is a vaccine available to us. This is the year 2009. We have amazing scientists, researchers and doctors who did not just press the green light on this vaccine 'for fun'. This is serious. It's a pandemic. And I believe, I have to believe, I choose to believe - that my counry has my best interest at heart. It's not a totally new vaccine. It is very similar to the regular flu vaccine, which people get every single year. And did you know that every year they 'tweak' the flu vaccine? There are different ingredients in it every year, however, most of us have never questioned this before.
Now, we are being urged to get vaccinated - especially those in the high risks groups - which include children between 6 months old and 5 years old. My oldest son had a bad case of pneumonia last year - so bad, he required surgery in his lung to drain fluid. He had a chest tube in him for 4 days, and was on morphine. He had to wear an oxygen mask. IV, countless ultrasounds, C/T scans, x-rays. It was a nightmare, to say the least. I have seen my child that sick. I never want to see that again. I have been given a chance here to prevent my children from getting H1N1. An approved vaccine is available to me. I'm no doctor. And we all know (besides a few reputable sites online - such as Health Canada and WHO) we can't totally trust all the negative information we read.
I wish I could run away with my children, to a place far away, where H1N1 doesn't exist. But that is not a real choice. Instead, I can choose to get my children - and myself - vaccinated. I spoke to my children's pediatrician, whom I trust. And he is recommending this vaccine. The one that is out now, the adjuvant one. I am feeling strongly about getting this vaccine for my children. Even though I do have doubts. It's in our best interest, health wise. Getting H1N1 is a far worse scenario than any adverse effects the vaccine may have.
I never questioned any of the immunizations my children received. Shot after shot, I approved and happily got them vaccinated. I never even asked what the ingredients were in these vaccines. I just trusted the doctor. And got my children vaccinated.
This has been the hardest choice and decision I have had to make as a parent yet. It's not fun. It's not easy. It's absolutely stressful. And I hate it. It makes me cry. I feel horrible for all of us having to make such a critical choice. We can only do what we think is best. Whatever that may be.
Good Luck to you all. And let's hope this flu goes away soon.