When it comes to flu shots, as parents, Michael and I are THOSE PEOPLE: the ones who refuse to immunize their children.
Now granted, we’re not THOSE PEOPLE, the whole hog, total anti-vaccination nutjobs who think an MMR is behind autism and back fat and low credit scores, or that the Hep B immunization is a government plot to ensure your precious newborn someday ends up on PeopleofWalmart.com. Like I said, we’re just not down with the flu shot: we don’t like the idea of deliberately giving our kids a potent flu vaccine that hasn’t undergone significant testing, and at the same time, we’re comfortable strengthening their immune systems with anything they accidentally pick up. Do we get sick? Occasionally, to date, but not body-fluids-painting-the-house sick, and certainly not enough to change our position.
AND THEN CAME SWINE FLU EPIDEMIC ’09. . . Like every other parent, I was troubled by the pediatric death statistics, but I also knew that as of the start of this month, there had only been one H1N1-related pediatric death in King County per the Centers for Disease Control: a 5-month-old with underlying health issues. I checked my pediatrician’s web site every morning for updated information: they’d ordered enough doses for every clinic patient, but their vaccine supplies had long been depleted and they had no information on when more would arrive. Still, my kids were otherwise healthy; should they contract anything before the vaccine was available, I felt reasonably assured we’d weather it like we always had: miserably, maybe (that’d be “Happy Feet” on perpetual replay and a popcorn-and-juice diet), but as a family.
Finally, last Friday, the clinic’s web site announced they were making the vaccine available on Sunday for children 6-35 months old — literally for NO child a day over 3. Which meant that we’d have a narrow opportunity to have Nola vaccinated, but not Eliot.
Which just made me all, “Hey, Ballard Pediatrics, way to turn a simple flu shot into fucking ‘Sophie’s Choice!’ ”
Mike was against it on principle, and more important, the fact that he didn’t want to be somewhere at 9 on a Sunday morning. Turned out that was a helluva lot smarter than he thought: check out these photos of hundreds of families waiting in a line that started at 5:30 AM and stretched four city blocks. When I saw those images later in the day, instead of being worried that we hadn’t at least had Nola vaccinated, I immediately thought, “This is officially ridiculous! This is now MASS HYSTERIA!!” (Or to quote my good friend James, who’s far less prone to the use of exclamation marks, “The same people in line at oh-dark-thirty for H1N1 will be the most likely victims of a WalMart stampede on Black Friday. The herd is the herd.”)
So there I am, feeling all smug about not flapping at flies with my tail on this particular issue, when on Tuesday the New York Times runs a tiny little piece about parents opting out of the H1N1 vaccine. And it’s no big deal, except that among the comments, I come across a woman who never gets her kids flu vaccines, and decided against H1N1 too — and then her entire family contracted swine flu and she called it “the most miserable two weeks we’ve ever endured.”
Let me just repeat that, TWO WEEKS OF SWINAL MISERY. Can you IMAGINE TWO WEEKS of fevers and vomiting and “Happy Feet” and popcorn and screaming at each other about who’s turn it is to change who’s diaper? (Totally your turn to change mine, Mike.) I went straight to our pediatrician’s web site and — just two days after all those people had stood in that ridiculous line — they were booking appointments for H1N1 vaccinations. Eliot and Nola went in this morning.
Things looked a lot different around Ballard Pediatrics than usual. First of all, they’d removed everything that wasn’t bolted down:
The classic typewriters the girls love to clack on every time we visit were gone, as was the corner of wooden toys — even every last book.
Also, the nurse who administered the girls’ nasal mist was wearing this badass t-shirt, which she’d designed:
“I love the band the Foo Fighters,” she said, “so my first thought was we should be the ‘Flu Fighters.’ Then I thought, ‘No, we’ll be even tougher than that — we’ll be the ‘KUNG Flu Fighters’!” Kicking viral ass!
The girls did great, and are now suitably immunized. Mike and I? Totally infectious. And STILL those people.