the contagious ambivalence on H1N1

Yesterday my kids’ school sent home a questionnaire asking parents if we would want our children to be vaccinated for the swine flu at school. This was requested by some parents after the NYC public schools offered swine flu vaccinations to all children this past week, although in the end, just less than 50% of eligible families gave permission for their children to get the vaccine.

The form my oldest came home with yesterday made no promises that the vaccine would even be made available at my children’s school, just that attempts would be made, based upon the level of interest among parents. “This form needs to be returned immediately for your children to be put on the list,” the school warned, and so this morning, the hallways were abuzz with mothers asking one another the same question: are you signing up, or not?

I can’t remember a parenting issue about which I have seen such deep and unsettling ambivalence. I know plenty of mothers who want their kids vaccinated, and I know plenty who don’t. I don’t know one mother, however, who is certain that her decision is the right one. Those who fear a rushed and untested vaccine still shudder at the nightly news stories of kids on respirators. Those who want the vaccine for their children are still second-guessing themselves, wondering whether all this anti-vaccine sentiment might be worth considering.

I have been getting daily emails from a friend, warning parents against this vaccine in the most urgent language imaginable. which I have been erasing without reading because these particular emails are written by a charlatan. But that doesn’t mean I think the whole argument is without merit. It doesn’t mean that I’m not worrying.

Ironically, I know as many mothers who had the swine flu available, and decided against it, as I know mothers who desperately desire it for their children, and have pediatricians who cannot promise they will receive any vaccine at all.

I returned the form to my kids’ school. If vaccine becomes available, I want it for my children. I think. How about you?