Monday, November 23, 2009

Swine Flu Vaccinations in Amsterdam

We went to the mass vaccination against Swine Flu for toddlers today in Amsterdam.

(Entertainment for kids while we waited in line. They were singing "the shot doesn't hurt, la la la _ but you could hear kids screaming in the distance)

Here's le moment supreme:

The Dutch are calling h1n1 "Mexican Flu" rather than "Swine Flu" to protect the pork industry (!) and there was an amusing item on TV recently where some health workers dressed up in sombreros etc. while giving shots.

Not everything has to be controversial, nor do I always have to find something to rant about.

But: some semi-intellectual content about the getting the shot versus not getting the shot after the "More"

I was interested by the reactions of many parents in my circle _ well-educated people _ who hesitated to get the vaccine.

The chance of dying from Swine Flu is minute, and the chance of dying from the vaccination is even more minute. So in a sense the choice doesn't matter much.

However, one choice is clearly superior both from a societal viewpoint and from an individual viewpoint.

For individuals, if you're vaccinated you won't get the actual flu. So you don't have to go through 5 days of flu hell, though admittedly there are side effects. I felt headache-y for two days after I had my shot.

In sum, a mild crappy feeling for two days, versus catching a full on puking flu. It seems like an easy choice to me.

From a societal viewpoint: it's important to have the vaccine distribution chain / government response primed for the NEXT virus, one that may be much more lethal than H1N1.

So in that sense, I'm very glad this virus and vaccine came along.

I would also say, it's a stunning triumph of science that they were able to create a vaccine this quickly and get it out to so many people as well as they have. I'm amazed that there isn't more appreciation of that fact. I guess especially when it comes to health issues, people will always want the moon and the stars.

As a footnote, it's true that as more and more people have either been vaccinated or sick, the epidemic will peter out. And therefore some people will get lucky and be able to skip both the vaccination and not catch the disease. This is the 'freeloader' strategy.

Okay, if that's the way you want to play it ...