The Swine Flu Follies

Why is it that every time I am in a room these days and hear someone cough I figure I am going to get the swine flu? (Oops — R2-D2). Sheesh.

OK. I know that this isn’t a laughing matter. Many people are sick with the flu, or flu-like symptoms. Some deaths (I saw a figure of around 600 in an AP story) have been reported throughout the country — with younger adults, children and pregnant women particularly at risk. And unless the potential for serious illness has been grossly overblown, we’re in for a tough few months.

So why is there so much confusion about all this? And why do so many people — myself included — have reservations about getting a swine flu shot?

Interesting public health — and communications — challenge here.

Here’s the view from my little world.

My doctor isn’t even scheduling shots for the seasonal flu until the end of October. Yet, I read in the Akron Beacon Journal that hospitals in the Akron/Canton communities where I live are restricting visitors “to protect patients from influenza.” Gulp. That many people have the flu already? (Full disclosure: I raced down to a local pharmacy and got a seasonal flu shot. No point waiting for my doc if things are that bad at local hospitals and getting worse? Are they? Hmm.)

And like most everyone, I’ve had plenty of opportunity by now to learn everything there is to know about swine flu. I take the Sunday dead-tree editions of both the Akron Beacon Journal and The Plain Dealer. Last Sunday, it was one swine flu story after the other — with the same stories in both papers.

Yet I still have no clue about when, where or even if I can get a swine flu shot. No wonder people like me — proud holders of the Ohio Golden Buckeye card — are worried about health-care death panels. I digress.

But here’s the rub.

Given the opportunity, should I get a swine flu shot?

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is encouraging everyone to get a swine flu vaccination — opining that it is both necessary and safe. Here’s from an Associated Press story, “Sebelius: Americans must get swine flu vaccination“:

Sebelius unconditionally vouched for the safety of the vaccine, saying it ”has been made exactly the same way seasonal vaccine has been made, year in and year out.”

Appearing on morning news shows to step up the Obama administration’s campaign for vaccinations, Sebelius said that ”the adverse effects are minimal. … We know it’s safe and secure. … This is definitely is a safe vaccine for people to get.”

Yet many aren’t so sure.

Another Associated Press story reports that parents are “opposing the swine flu vaccine” with as many as 38 percent in an AP poll saying they were unlikely to give permission for their kids to be vaccinated in school.

Oh, yeah. In the ’70s I got a swine flu shot — and I was sick for days. Not rolling around in the mud, oinking sick. But sick.

Decisions. Decisions.

What should I do? What should I do?

Not sure.

And what will you do? For yourself — and if you have children?

Hey, nobody said communication — and decisions — on these and most issues is easy.


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