H1N1 & a worried mama

>> Friday, October 30, 2009

like every other parent out there, i'm worried about this flu season. the H1N1 virus has struck fear into the hearts of everyone and i'm no exception. usually "the glass is DEFINITELY half full" type of person, i have dreams of catastrophe when it comes to the mini. i can buy the safest carseat and drive carefully, i can dress her warmly against the elements, but i can't protect her from an airborne virus, especially one that most of the population has not encountered before and have no immunity against. i also have nightmares about the vaccine - that this is really just a premise for a low budget horror movie and that we'll all turn into zombies. (hmmm... i should write a book.)

yesterday, as a family, we went to one of the H1N1 flu clinics. we have a little bit of an advantage in that because both the husband and i are front line healthcare workers, we qualified for early vaccination, and because the mini is in a high-risk group, so does she. (probably the only time being a low paid healthcare worker pays off! LOL!) the husband went early and saved us a space in line while i bundled up the mini in her montreal canadiens carseat cover (see the photo!) and got together our documentation and identification. as somewhat embarrassing as it was, the husband and i also wore face masks, knowing that the clinic would be full of people who might be sick and adequate ventilation was unlikely. (we were the only people at the time wearing masks. yes, we looked weird. i don't care.) thanks to the husband who spoke to the public health staff, we were vaccinated relatively quickly. i have to say that the mini was so wonderfully well behaved despite the fact that we kept her face covered and she barely cried when she got her shot!
when we left the clinic, i was surprised to see that the lineup had grown from the 75 or so people that were there when we arrived to about 250 and had extended outside the clinic. and as the day went on, we watched on the news as the lineup grew to hundreds, and then thousands of people, most with small children, or adults with chronic conditions. by 2 pm, the two clinics in the GTA had been closed and were no longer allowing new people in line. it broke my heart to see mothers with babies even younger than the mini waiting in line in the cold, knowing that the wait could be 3 hours or more. i'm shocked that despite knowing what the overwhelming response in the US was to the clinics, Toronto Public Health was so swamped. i have to say that the staff we encountered were professional, even after being so overrun with the demand, but their day must have been brutally stressful.
when SARS happened, my workplace was part of a pandemic plan and everyone learned so much from that experience. in this case, we have a vaccine that offers protection from this virus. however, with all of the media coverage and the tragic deaths that have occurred because of H1N1, i would have expected a more widespread, coordinated effort to vaccinate people - especially those in high risk groups. my sister, with her newborn daughter, cannot wait in line to get the shot. my other sister has two school-aged children who are constantly in close quarters with other kids. my 85 year old grandmother is basically housebound, and would never be able to wait in the cold. with most family doctors NOT providing the H1N1 shot, who is responsible for them?
my little family is very lucky. we have stayed up to date with the current information, and i have a fabulous husband who was willing to run to the clinic (yes, he ran there ahead of us) and make sure that we got seen. and i know that apparently almost 25% of the population has been vaccinated already - thanks to the Public Health departments.
however, the world knew this was coming. and i wonder what we should have been doing by this time to protect more people. seriously.


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