Swine flu update: update

November 6, 2009 at 9:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Mission accomplished. I procured a swine flu vaccine, no thanks to Harvard Vanguard. I’m sure it’s not really their fault. But here is what is their fault: misinformation.  The nurse at my ob’s finally — after 15 minutes on the phone during which I implored her to explore some options with me — told me about a clinic being offered to pregnant women today at the Brigham, but then recommended I not get the vaccine there because it was not Thimerisol free. “But the CDC recommends that pregnant women get this vaccine regardless, and says that the vaccines are safe,” I pointed out. “Well, we just don’t know what the effects are,” she said. I pointed out that we also don’t know the effects of Tamiflu on the unborn child. “You’d rather I risk getting swine flu than risk the vaccine?” I asked. “I think you should wait until we receive the Thimerisol free vaccine,” she said. Since Harvard Vanguard apparently has not received any vaccines yet for their high-risk patients — while Wall Street bankers and lawyers are being vaccinated in their offices — you’ll understand why I was no longer prepared to be patient.

Moreover, I think her advice was misinformed and incorrect. I consulted with my cadre of “private physicians” — i.e., three very good doctor-friends whose expertise and medical advice I trust completely. One of them told me that the amount of mercury in the flu vaccine was less than what is in a tuna sandwich. In addition, the concern about preservatives in vaccines stems from a time when there was thought to possibly be a connection between the mercury and autism — something that has not been at all substantiated by research. (For the record, my sister and brother-in-law’s dear nephew is autistic, so this is not something any of us take lightly.)

People can and will have their own opinions on this, and I respect them. Your health decisions are up to you (which is why I am so pro-choice). But I also think this is a scenario in which anxiety and rumors can get and have gotten out of hand. (I’m not immune: I admit I became somewhat all-consumed with my inability to get vaccinated.) In the end, I did my own research: I read the CDC website, and I consulted with other doctors. But, ultimately, I do have faith in Western medicine. A clinic held specifically for pregnant women — at one of the best hospitals in the country, no less — just would not offer a vaccine that would be unsafe. As it turns out, the shot I received this morning was the “low dose” vaccine — completely mercury-free vaccines are not widely available at this time. This particular one had one participle/milligram (whatever the measurement they used was) of preservative as opposed to 20 participles/milligrams.

Anyway, I’m relieved. It only took three or four phone calls a day (to both branches of  my obstetrician’s office, my primary care physician, my pediatrician, various departments of public health), three days a week, for six weeks or so, plus 45 minutes on Tuesday chasing down this flu clinic lead (emailed to me by many people who had read my blog — thank you!), two hours yesterday driving to the Brigham during rush hour so that I could register as a patient in order to attend the clinic, a 45-minute drive in rush hour this morning and a 30 minute wait (I was sixth in line — a bit bummed that I was not actually first, as had been my intent!)


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  1. Alright. You convinced me. I just signed up for the vaccine.

    • Hooray! I’m so glad.

  2. Long time reader, first time commenter. I resent the way medical professionals are not following CDC advice and the nurse *actively discouraged you* from getting a vaccination. I would bring it up with your OB. I have heard of other medical professionals giving the wrong advice as well.

    I am a mother of two and one is a 4 month old baby. You can be sure I was willing to give my 4 year old anything to avoid the swine flu which likely would have made my baby, if she got it very sick. I got vaccinated as well, and we both used the nasal vaccine with no ill effects at all. People are really getting a little nutty about this.

    I find it very unfortunate the way we have to advocate for our own health care nowadays. Among other issues!

  3. I’m glad you won’t be catching my Pork Rickets.

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