The H1N1 virus is doing some strange things. For most people, it acts like a normal flu but every once and a while it attacks so strongly that it kills adolescents and young people in a very short length of time. My daughter and her partner are mourning the death of a colleague on Wednesday, a fit and healthy man of thirty-eight who will be a great loss to his community and his young family. It is quite clear that no one can really predict whom this flu will hit and how hard.
The dead man's wife is a doctor; I am quite sure that she did all the right things to get him help when he became seriously ill but all of our very competent medical knowledge was not enough to save him. At almost the same time a friend of mine, of about my age, was admitted to hospital with serious heart arrhythmia. She was fitted with a pace -maker and is home again and feeling well. The young (to me, anyway) professor's death hit the front page of the paper; my friend's quick rescue and recovery is not news at all. I think that because we expect so much from our health care providers, and they so often deliver flawlessly, we are seriously frightened when they do not have instant and positive answers to a problem.
And so, we second guess them. Veterans should have the flu shot early and if they don't get it, cries of ageism are heard. People get frightened and are ill informed. They jump the queues and cause serious damage to the plan for vaccine delivery. They get angry. The press has lovely dramatic stories to tell and thus fan the flames. People make money standing in for others in the waiting lines. People behave badly, in short.
I have no problem with the priorities that have been established for delivery of the H1N1 shots. And I am saying that from the very end of the line. If it is a choice between immunizing me or immunizing my children and grandchildren, I am quite content to let them go first whether I have partial immunity from the 1957 version or whether I do not. From my limited perspective I can speculate that it might have been better to give the shot to children and young people in schools and universities, and to their teachers, at a higher priority, in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus through these dense populations and then home to their families. The argument has been that it is a hugely complicated and potentially unfair logistical problem to get the clinics to schools; if so, it is a problem that should be explored and a plan developed for future use. Equally, the problem of stopping people from ignoring the priority instructions and arriving at the clinics, thus clogging the system, should be solved.
But in the meantime, you will not find me in a H1N1 shot line-up until I am called and told that my turn has come. And I am perfectly happy to take my chances.
Even though the skin on my hands is all crackly from using hand sanitizer so much.