This is probably a very sensitive subject, but I've decided to start a discussion about it here anyway. I am really not worried about swine flu (or H1N1, if you want to be PC for pigs), as it doesn't seem to be any worse than the regular flu and I try not to get swayed by media hype, but I got my kids inoculated against it anyway. In fact, I called and called the pediatrician's office for weeks to see if they had yet received any vaccinations. My kids got colds over the weekend and Ethan had goopy eyes, so I had to take him in and luckily, they didn't have fevers and were able to get the H1N1 vax. The next night, I took them to tae kwon do for Ethan's class and I was talking to a guy I know there and mentioned the pinkeye and the flu mist my kids received. "You got your kids the swine flu vaccination?" he asked, appalled. "Yeah," I said testily. "1976 - same thing happened - lots of people got Guillaine-Barre syndrome from it and DIED," he responded. Now, first of all, I don't like it when people question the decisions I make for my children. I am an educated person and I researched the new swine flu vaccine as well as the one for seasonal flu and I also trust my pediatrician. However, I was scared. I came home and read all I could on the subject. And here are some things I learned:
1. Yes, it seems that some people have developed Guillaine-Barre syndrome from flu vaccines. It's rare and although no cases have (yet) been linked to the H1N1 vax, it has been linked to the shot from 1976 and the seasonal flu vaccine. Do you know what else causes Guillaine-Barre, though? The flu. Mono. Surgery. AIDS. Most commonly, it's food poisoning. And sometimes they have no idea what causes it. These "causes" are merely educated guesses by doctors.
2. The flu mist that my children received doesn't have any preservatives in it. I don't believe that thimerosal in vaccines causes autism or anything else, for that matter, but even so, it's not in the flu mist. And there's so little in the injection that you're more likely to get mercury poisoning from eating fish than from a vaccine.
3. This was the most interesting to me: When we are bombarded with facts and opinions about an issue, our brains aren't wired to make logical decisions about risk vs. benefit. We have definitely been bombarded with this swine flu stuff and a lot of us (myself included) are panicky about whether or not we should "subject" our kids to such a "risky" vaccine. But what about other health risks? If you suspected you had appendicitis, you'd go to the hospital, right? You wouldn't worry about the too-high rates of post-operative infection or medical errors. You'd have that sucker cut out of you before it burst and killed you, because you understand that the benefit outweighs the risk. Same with seat belts. People have been killed by seat belts in car accidents. However, you'd just be outright stupid if you didn't put one on every time you get in a vehicle, because you know more people have been saved by seat belts and, again, the benefit outweighs the risk.
Let's face it: life is risky. And my philosophy is, don't worry about stuff, but protect yourself and your kids the best you can. For me and my family, that means vaccines. I read an article in a health magazine years ago that listed the 10 best things to do for your health. #1 was childhood immunizations. #1! It beat out exercise, eating a lot of vegetables, giving blood, and whatever else was on that list. So I don't see the need to have a "chicken pox party" when my kids can get a simple shot and avoid that illness (and, possibly, shingles later) altogether.
My friend at tae kwon do has his own views about the H1N1 vaccine. He's a smart guy, he's done his research, and he's decided it's not the best thing for his family. I can respect that. My point is not to blast anyone who doesn't get their kids the swine flu vax because, honestly, it's probably not that big of a deal and it's none of my business. My point is this: research it. Read reputable sources. Base decisions on facts and what you think is best for your family, not what politicians or conspiracy theorists or homeopathic medicine vendors or windbags on the internet (myself included) say.