Sunday, 29 November 2009

Herd immunity? Of course I've heard of immunity...

I have a healthy respect for pandemics.
Exhibit A: My great-aunt Dorothy who succumbed to influenza in 1919, along with millions of others world-wide. She was twenty-eight years old, and had been married only six months. My grandmother remembered the anxious ride home on the trolley in Wolverhampton when she was called home from her work as a secretary, and her sister's attempts to speak to her husband as she drowned in the fluids of her own lungs.
Exhibit B: Yours truly who was an unwitting and unwilling participant in another recent pandemic. I was eleven and this illness was in the top three of the sickest I've ever been: an temperature of 106º during which I lost track of whether it was day or night and the bed appeared to flip end over end.

Here in Canada, the reaction to the spread of H1N1 virus has ventured as about as close to hysteria as Canadians get outside of a hockey arena. Speaking of which, unvaccinated hockey players on the Ottawa Senators team have been banned from attending charity events. In my hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, a woman who didn't even have the flu was forced off a bus by an irate little old lady. In Hades, the H1N1 vaccine became available the same week two healthy kids suddenly died, so the clinics were packed and the vaccine kept running out. Oddly enough, healthy kids the same age as the victims were not in the priority groups to whom the vaccine was being offered, so the Resident Fan Boy and I had to field anxious inquiries from Demeter on why neither we nor our kids were immunized. Leo Sister and Jolly-Not-Green-Giant Brother-in-law both have asthma, so braved the line-ups a couple of weeks ago. Within two days, my nephew came down with the virus and thoughtfully shared it with his family before their immunity kicked in. They all survived.

Finally, the vaccine was offered to those outside the priority groups (younger children; medically compromised; elderly; medical staff), so the Resident Fan Boy and I took younger daughter to our family doctor's clinic, hoping to avoid the cattle-calls that have been extensively covered by the news for the past month. Well, it was still a cattle-call, but a small one, aimed at children, but with possible vaccinations for parents, should doses be left over.

Younger daughter is normally brave about needles, but got herself worked up into a right state over this one. She told me she didn't want to have a bleeding arm for Christmas. So you can imagine how delighted I was when we were directed to sit on a stool outside an office from whence blood-curdling screams were emanating. (No! Noooooooo! Don't do it!!!!) This continued for about five minutes. Clearly someone was being vivisectioned in there. Finally, the door opened and a puffy, teary four-year-old boy emerged, followed by his parents carrying his perfectly placid one-year-old sister. Younger daughter entered, gave one "Owwww!" as the needle was inserted, and as we exited, the next parents pointed her out to their kids, saying: "See? It took no time at all and she's smiling!" Whew.

We were corralled into a narrow hall where we were required to wait fifteen minutes before departing. The reason for this became clear as we worked our way gradually towards the exit. A boy of about ten or eleven leaned against his mother, sobbing. Gee, I thought. How badly did it hurt?
I saw the mum of this older boy touching his forehead, so I glanced around for some staff, then approached her.
"Do you need me to find someone?"
"Well, it's just he's so hot..."
I darted into the passageway, found someone with a stethoscope and told her I thought a young boy might be having a reaction. She whipped past me, saying: "Thanks, this is what we need to know!"
Boy and his mum were hurried into another area. I never found out what happened.

The puffy little four-year-old strolled by with his parents and valiant little sister in tow: "Well, it did hurt quite a bit and I may have cried..."

The Resident Fan Boy hung around for his shot, and I took elder daughter in to a smaller and even more civilized evening clinic last Thursday. My arm is sore and bruised and I've been falling asleep at odd moments over the past three days. Let's just say we did it for the herd immunity...

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