Swine Flu FeverThe H1N1 season is in full swing, and so, it appears, is flu vaccine fever.

With the second wave of swine flu now sweeping the nation, to get vaccinated or not is the question all of us are facing. According to a new poll, most – 51 per cent of Canadians – are saying thanks but no thanks to the free inoculations now underway.

Despite urging of Health Canada and medical health officers across the country, we’re a cynical bunch who won’t roll up our sleeves for just anyone.

Skepticism of authority and a medical system that can be too cozy with Big Pharma is healthy. So too is a propensity for employing a proactive and participatory approach to one’s health – becoming an informed consumer who considers their medical options carefully.

But emerging wild-eyed from a session of Internet research is no way to make a calculated decision. In fact, the H1N1 flu vaccine myths being perpetuated by the conspiracy-theory set can do real harm.

For instance, you cannot “catch” the flu from the vaccine. It is made from a killed virus that can’t cause the disease. A sore arm at the injection site and a general feeling of fatigue are usually the worst side effects of the shot. If a person does fall ill, they were likely infected before they received the vaccination. It takes the body up to 10 days to reach full immunity following the inoculation.

This speaks to the myth that the risks of the vaccine are worse than the flu itself. Many people believe autism and Guillian-Barré syndrome (an immune system disorder) are a result of vaccines and the preservatives they contain. But no such link has been proven in Canadian studies.

Perhaps the most dangerous misconception is that the flu is no worse than a bad cold. This is simply untrue. The flu is a serious respiratory illness that this season is being described by those afflicted with it as being hit by a Mack truck or being struck by lightning. They are completely debilitated for days.
And then there are those who have died.

Perhaps after a generation or two of vaccinations that have spared us from various awful diseases (polio, diphtheria, pertussis, etc.), the public has grown complacent. After all, most 20-somethings likely have no clue what an iron lung is.

We are also a culture of death deniers – with old age postponed by plastic surgery and the end of life so sanitized and scripted that we almost expect immortality.

The facts are, H1N1 is a pandemic flu that is capable of killing the youngest, healthiest among us and a vaccine deemed safe through clinical trials around the world is available to avoid becoming sick.

Get the shot.