To Swine Flu Vaccinate or Not to Swine Flu Vaccinate?

If you’re like me, you’ve been having an internal debate over whether to vaccinate yourself and any children you have. And perhaps you’re even finding yourself traumatized by the hysteria on the evening news. To counteract that, I provide you with the more mild-mannered medical perspective of Pediatric Alternatives, my expensive, highly respected, hippie-dippy alternative-medicine pediatrician’s office. This information made me feel far more calm while considering my options, and I hope it does the same for you. Here are their latest recommendations:

Don’t panic. Breathe. Wait, don’t breathe, you might catch a germ! Stay home! Wear masks! Wash your hands constantly! Remove your children from all public activities! Stay home! Build a flu bunker!

Well, you get the idea. There has been a lot of media coverage of the flu this week. Unfortunately, the media’s job is to obtain viewers, not to give you balanced, non-sensational medical information. We have been inundated with H1N1 flu questions this past week. Everyone seems much more nervous, due in large part to the escalating news coverage. Everyone remembers the one exception covered on 60 minutes, but let’s set some basic facts straight about this flu:

1. It is milder than typical winter influenza.

2. This is a very contagious strain, so it is likely that many members of our community will get it. The incubation period is 3 days. If you have no symptoms 5 days after exposure, you likely will not get the virus.

3. If you get the virus, 30% of you won’t even get a fever and will think you have just a cold. If you do get fever, it will typically be for 2-3 days. A few children have had fever for as long as 5-7 days, but this is very unusual in our patients who are treating their flu with natural means.

4. Most of the people who have gotten very ill have significant pre-existing medical conditions like chronic lung disease. In fact, proportionally, more “healthy” people get very ill with regular winter flu than have gotten very ill with this flu.

5. So far, our families that have had the flu have recovered quickly and easily, with little need for bloodwork, antibiotics, chest x-rays, etc. Even children with a history of asthma or wheezing seem to be less likely to wheeze with this illness.
We are very happy overall with how our patients are weathering this storm.

6. If you have had a flu like illness (fever, muscle aches, headache the first day, with runny nose and cough symptoms) then you may have already had H1N1! The CDC says unless you know for sure it was H1N1 you should still get the vaccine, but this is likely overkill and you probably don’t need it.

7. Initially we were quite concerned about the H1N1 vaccine because it was going to contain a controversial new ingredient that had not been used in regular vaccines in the U.S. Luckily, the CDC changed their mind and opted not to use this new adjuvant, squalene. As far as we know, the vaccine that will be supplied to us from the government will be manufactured in a manner similar to our usual preservative-free flu vaccine. So, we feel more comfortable with the idea of our patients receiving this vaccine.

We will have a limited supply of preservative-free H1N1 vaccine. We will prioritize vaccine for high-risk families such as those with pregnant women, or children of any age with a history of pneumonia or asthma. Once these families are covered, we can open up our supplies to any families that desire the vaccine. Adults should get their vaccine from their primary care provider. Pregnant women should be sure to ask for the preservative free version as it does not contain mercury.

8. Let us be clear, again, that we feel most people don’t need this vaccine. This is a mild flu and it may be better to get it now and have immunity for the next time it goes around, or next year’s strain.

If you do want the vaccine, please e-mail the office and ask to have the exact members of your family that you want to get the vaccine put on the list. When the vaccine comes in, we will call families in to get the vaccine. We do not yet know when the vaccine will arrive, or how many doses we will receive. The latest reports suggest some time in November.

9. When you watch the news, remember that they are not putting the information in perspective.

10. Please, do not call the office with general questions about the swine flu vaccine. We need to be 100% available to those families that are ill. If you need to talk to us about this or any other vaccines, please schedule a shot appointment.

And finally, we have a very few doses left of regular flu vaccine that will be saved for children with high risk medical conditions. Adults that are still interested in getting a regular flu vaccine should try their regular provider. Pharmaca is also having preservative-free flu shot drop in clinics.

What You Should Be Reading About

In The Real Deal Guide, I discuss how unnecessary it is to read pregnancy tombs because our bodies know how to be pregnant and common sense goes a long way in pregnancy health.

I also wrote that your time would be better spent reading up on breastfeeding, if you’re planning on partaking, and helping your baby to develop healthy sleep habits once he or she arrives.

After reading a surprising article by Science Daily that declared nearly 1/3 of US parents don’t know what to expect from their infants or how to help them develop, I have yet another suggested homework assignment for mommies-to-be: invest in a child-rearing book or two.

I bought What to Expect the First Year and What to Expect the Toddler Years from a used bookshop, but found them as frustrating as the brand’s pregnancy book because its organization inadvertently implied that if your growing child did not follow the book’s rigid milestone time line, something was wrong. And heavens knows we moms don’t need any more to worry about.

More level headed, albeit a boring read, is Touchpoints, which helps parents anticipate, understand, and facilitate developmental milestones. I’m sure there are some other good ones out there, but now I’m too busy reading about healthy discipline practices for my nearly three-year-old to bother finding them.

If you have any suggestions, send ‘em my way!