The other day a reporter called with questions about employees and H1N1 vaccination. After explaining that we do not think that swine flu shots will be available on the open market and therefore not available for employees, he asked the question we’d be waiting for - Would you take a swine flu shot?
The answer is: Probably not. I’ll explain. First, I may have already had the swine flu. About twelve weeks ago, while eating dinner one night, I became extremely tired – tired enough that I asked my husband to drive my car home. By the following morning, I had a sore throat, bad cough, headache and generally overall achiness – but not fever. At that point, the experts (my friends at the CDC and AMA) were telling everyone that H1N1 flu had a fever of 101.5 or higher. As I slept away the weekend, I took my temperature frequently. It never inched above 98.6. By Sunday morning, my daughter (who is asthmatic) had similar symptoms and my pediatrician advised starting her on Tamiflu. I recovered by Monday afternoon. My daughter, on Tamiflu, was sick less than twenty four hours.
But back to the question, why am I not planning on taking a swine flu shot even though I am considered high priority to receive one (as a healthcare professional). Well… there are quite a few reasons.
REason #1: the last time we gave Swine flu shots in the US (1976), the outcome wasn’t great. Every single release and consent for a seasonal flu shot talks about Guillaume Barre Syndrome – that warning is directly related to the Swine flu vaccine given in 1976.
Reason #2: This vaccine is being rushed to market – without some of the kinds of testing that we have deemed necessary for safe vaccine production.
Reason #3: At this point, H1N1 flu just isn’t that bad. Nearly every one of our clients have had employees become ill with H1N1 flu. Although recently there was one death, hundreds of employees got sick, were sick for about two days, took another day or two to bounce back and came back to work. At this point (at least until if and when it mutates), it is a fairly mild flu.
Is my advice that no one should take a swine flu shot? No. Speak to your pediatrician or personal physician. Evaluate your risks (pregnant women appear to be at higher risk for complications and hospitalization). Watch to see if this flu seems to become more severe. And make your own informed decision.
There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a pandemic. It just seems to be, at this point, less than the worst case scenario. Let’s hope it stays that way.