And so, you, lucky
I had never really thought about getting the vaccine vs not getting it; I've always figured it was something that the elderly, very young, and chronically ill people needed, and I didn't feel it was right to take a vaccine that was more needed by others.
I never had a flu vaccine by my own, adult choice until I was pregnant with my 2nd child. I also had one with my 3rd, but not my 4th (by that point I was more keen to question what goes in my body). I've only had the flu twice in my life...once as a child and once as a teenager, and I wasn't officially diagnosed the second time--we just assumed, since I threw up once and just felt miserable the rest of the day.
Since having my 3rd child, I've become more aware of what is actually in vaccines, how much the government, well meaning doctors, and our society all just tell us what to do without really making an effort to educate us about ALL of the risks OR our other options. Or let us know that we actually have choices in these matters. We're just made to think that everything deemed "medical" is for our own good, so we do it.
(And for the naysayers of holistic health, home birth, and the like, I know this is an unpopular view, I know you think I'm a hippie, but I don't care. So if you have something to say to the contrary, you can go on with your blah-blah-blah about it...I don't care that you want to do what you've always done in the past without question...I'm always going to question validity! ALWAYS!!)
Please excuse that soap box.
I'm not against vaccines...I'm against anyone forcing me to get them, or making me feel guilty about not getting them when I don't feel comfortable putting certain things in my body or in those of my children.
Just because someone doesn't want a vaccine, doesn't mean they are throwing caution to the wind and are being irresponsible. I firmly believe you should weigh the risks and benefits of any course of action before making any decisions where your health and safety are concerned. If I choose to not take a vaccine or not to have them given to my children, it's not because of fear; it's because I've researched and read and made a thoughtful decision based on my findings.
We are hand-sanitizers and washers.
We cover our mouths with our arms, not hands, when we sneeze and cough.
We clean doorknobs, shopping cart handles, and table surfaces we touch.
We are careful to stay home when we're not feeling well, both in consideration of others' health and also our own (you can't make a full recovery if you are exposing your weakened immune system to more irritants; so, if one of us has a fever, we take more than the recommended 24 hours to get back into the public).
We are sporadic about vitamin supplements, but we eat well...lots of protein, vegetables, and fruit...to boost our immune systems naturally.
My kids were all born either just before "flu season" or right in the middle of it, so whether or not to get the flu vaccine is a question that I have to answer every year. I think I did cave in and have the kids get it once or twice, but we haven't gotten the flu either way. Or really anything else, for that matter.
**correction**I just remembered my second one got the flu just before she turned 2 months old. We came home from my grandmother's funeral in La and she woke up at midnight with 103 temp. I took her to the emergency room where they did a battery of rule-out tests (including a spinal tap--AWFUL to watch!), but couldn't find anything wrong. They kept her loaded up with antibiotics until the fever went down. She was released after 3 days, and then, after we got home, they figured out she had the flu. At which point, we did nothing because she was so young and had no more fever. And it wasn't a big deal. And it was even in rsv season.**
Now...I have been pondering the H1N1 vaccine, simply because my children have not been around that type of flu and most likely do not have any natural antibodies for it. I actually had the original swine flu vaccine when I was 2 or 3. I don't know if those antibodies have stayed with me or if they have been passed along to my kids at all, but I would be interested in finding out if that is possible.
I did finally decide that when the H1N1 injection became available, that we would go ahead and get it. This was based on the fact that it has been used in the past and therefore has been tested for reactions and complications, at least enough for my satisfaction.
I just wasn't too keen on putting a live virus in my kids' bodies with the nasal-spray vaccine. I figured if it wasn't safe for babies under two years old, pregnant women, and those with a history of respiratory illness, then it's probably best to avoid that one. Here, the risk out-weighed the benefit for me.
Until now, however.
My 11 month old, the one person in our house who isn't in a lot of contact with other children (like daycare or school) and the general public (like grocery stores) is the one who comes down with the flu. Go figure!
It is mild for him, probably because I took him in to the doctor on the second day of his fever--which is odd for me to do, especially since it only got up to 100.4. But he was more cranky than when he usually gets a fever, and he already has all of his front teeth, so I knew it wasn't teething pain. He nose had started running that morning and by noon he had a little cough. So I figured it was either an ear infection or a cold, both of which I wanted to get knocked out asap for his comfort and my own sanity.
After ruling out an ear infection and a throat infection, the doctor took a blood sample to test for a virus. After that came back positive, he did a nose swab to test for flu, which came back positive as well. However the line was VERY faint, and they could NOT tell which type of flu it is, thus indicating that it is a mild case.
I discussed the vaccine at that point with our doctor, and decided to go with his recommendation of the nasal spray vaccine for my 2 and 4 yr old. I figured since they had already been exposed to the live virus in our home, then they might as well have the live vaccine to head off an actual infection and to help keep it from spreading to others, since they attend preschool, gymnastics, and ballet. Here, the benefit out-weighed the risk.
My 6 year old still has to wait for the injection because they are reserving the live, nasal-spray one for those in the 24-59mo age range. I still don't really think my girls NEEDED to have it, but like I said, they had already been exposed, so we might as well take the immediate precaution.
As for the baby, he is in the injection-only group, which isn't available, so vaccinating wasn't even an option.
Interestingly, no matter which flu strand it is, the treatment is the same: tamiflu (as soon as possible is best), lots of rest and fluids.
That alone tells me that: a) the threat of the swine flu has been hyped up more than it should be--even the name "swine" flu sounds disgusting; for some people, you'd think that we're dealing with scarlet fever or the Ebola virus-- and b) the regular flu has been around so long that many people don't take it as seriously as they should. Therefore I do think it's good that awareness has been raised as to the dangers of the "regular" flu and hopefully people are taking more precautions, such as getting more vitamins, frequent hand washing, avoiding public places when they have symptoms, etc.
So, in summation (if you're still here reading this!):
1) Yes, people are dying of H1N1. Yes it is going around like it's going out of style. HOWEVER, the seasonal flu is just as harmful; so if you are going to worry yourself over H1N1, be sure to give the "regular" one equal attention.
2) Always, always, always weigh the risks and benefits of any medical course of action. Most doctors are good people who are serious about helping others; they are smart and educated; respect them, use their services. However, your doctor is NOT you. Do your own research, ask questions, find answers, and make an informed, educated decision.
3) Do what you can to not only avoid the flu and any other sickness going around (hand-washing/sanitizing--extra cleaning of doorknobs, shopping cart handles, and tables--staying away from others if you're mucous-y), but also to boost your immune system naturally (good nutrition--which is does NOT include highly-processed, sugary, or unnatural oil-fried foods--natural vitamins, etc.)
4) We have some sort of flu here. Don't come visit until next week.