| Oct 29, 2009

Back to HomeEditorial - October 29, 2009OK, I’ll roll up my sleeveEditorial by Jeff Green

It doesn’t surprise me that half of Canadians say they don't plan to get injected with the H1N1 vaccine.

I'm of two minds myself.

My instinct is to say no. Like many of us I don't particularly trust the government and anything with Canada at the end of its name is government, so Health Canada is not likely any more accurate than, say, Environment Canada.

In June, Environment Canada said we were going to have warmer than normal temperatures this summer, and look what happened.

Now, Health Canada is saying up to a third of us, about 11 million Canadians, will likely get the flu, but maybe they are completely wrong.

Health Canada also says the vaccine is safe, but then again, do we trust them?

When the Kingston Frontenac Lennox and Addington Public Heath Unit announced last week that almost all of the vaccination clinics they are planning would be held in Kingston, with only one afternoon in Sharbot Lake, and one afternoon in Cloyne, and no clinics at all in South Frontenac - and then were unavailable to clarify anything at all for three days - I began to make another calculation.

To make a special trip to Kingston in order to get vaccinated would be a mistake. The risk to my family from the drive to Kingston could be greater than the health risk we face from H1N1.

Further to the point, there is a Value Village adjacent to the Frontenac Mall where the clinic is taking place and Value Village has proven to be detrimental to my marriage over the years (my wife loves Value Village as much as I hate it, although we have found treasures there over the years, she hastens to remind me)

So there, no shot for me.

But then the rate of H1N1 infection jumped in Eastern Ontario. On Monday the Sharbot Lake Family Health Team said the growth in cases has been “exponential” and the current wave is likely two weeks from its peak.

We also learned that clinics are being set up on a regular basis in Sydenham, Verona, Sharbot Lake, and Northbrook. There is no need for any extra car drives; they can be accessed when we are already out and about.

Although none of us in my family are in a statistically high-risk group, H1N1 has been a serious threat, and has even killed people that would normally not get that sick from a flu.

The possibility of avoiding getting sick at all is also attractive, but the vaccine is really protection against the third wave of the disease; it is likely too late for the current wave that is sweeping through the region like an early November snow storm.

The deciding factor, for me, is a matter of social responsibility. Only if large numbers of people take the vaccine will the virus be slowed down. Even if I’m not too worried for myself or my family, if we get it we can spread it to someone who may get seriously ill, etc.

If most Canadians get vaccinated this month, it will save hardship for some other Canadians later this winter.

In a way it's like voting in federal elections, only less futile.

I vote in federal elections as an act of citizenship, in solidarity with everyone who votes, and out of respect for the candidates, who are generally well meaning.

But when I vote I have no expectation that it will bring about any social good.

At least if we all take the vaccine, some good just might come of it.

Besides, 50 million doses have already been paid for with our money. - JG

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