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?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

EC November 3, 2009 at 6:52 pm

I cannot receive the vaccine – but because of the H1N1's affect on the respiratory system I need to avoid catching it – so I am hoping for herd protection (enough people get vaccinated so I don't catch it) – however I am still concerned about my pregnant sister and nieces receiving the vaccine, my family is choosing to follow our doctor's advice and all who can will get the vaccine. What I did find interesting is that it was quietly announced that H1N1 vaccine would be added to the flu shot cocktail next year. I wonder if that will prevent people from getting the regular shot in years to come.


Anonymous November 3, 2009 at 7:06 pm

I heard a report yesterday saying that a large sampling of those who had received the vaccine showed no significant side effects. I would go for it.


Jessica November 3, 2009 at 7:12 pm

This is such a hard one! I got my daughter and myself vaccinated (I'm pregnant). I'm glad I did, but I am still nervous about possible outcomes for both my babies.


Anonymous November 3, 2009 at 7:32 pm

I have a three year old daughter and I am currently 35 weeks pregnant. I have not had a seasonal flu shot since I was in the military. My daughter and I will not be getting the H1N1 or the seasonal flu shot. I usually opt out of the optional vaccinations that are offered. I do not feel that the H1N1 shot has been tested enough to make me feel comfortable taking it or giving it to my child. Yes, I am concerned about both of us getting sick but not enough to risk taking the shot.


Ellie November 3, 2009 at 10:38 pm

We'll get it if we can. With one child with respiratory illness and two other kiddos under ages 4 and 8 months, I feel its appropriate for our family. Three kids under 5 sick could do a lot of harm and if I can get it I will as well. My DH has a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology and has recommended we do choose to vaccinate our family.


Amy Zimmerman November 4, 2009 at 2:19 am

We are getting it.
My friends that are pediatricians swear that this is just as well tested as the regular flu vaccine, which we already get every year. The H1N1 vaccine is produced in exactly the same way.
Their word is good enough for me, and the school is offering it, so we are in.


Roxane B. Salonen November 4, 2009 at 6:24 am

We missed our chance this past weekend, but they say another chance is coming. I wasn't sure either, but think that if it does come again, we'll go for it. Oh, these decisions ARE hard. Ugh…


Shelley Abreu November 4, 2009 at 12:38 pm

After researching the article I wrote for Babble, I am 100% for vaccination. I found no compelling evidence that it's unsafe. Nevertheless, I still know what you mean about worrying (which is weird when you look at the FACTS, but STILL).


Lacy November 4, 2009 at 4:41 pm

No ambivalence. We will not be getting shots. Of course, religious conviction makes it easier!


hayley November 5, 2009 at 12:53 am

my friend and i just had this conversation. i've read shelley's article for babble. i read the one in new york magazine. i'm less worried about giving it to my son (almost 6) than i am giving it to my daughter (8 months). but i worry that he brings home the germs – and boom. she gets it. plus my husband is a teacher in the nyc school system. i guess i have my answer…


Anonymous November 7, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Both my sons have asthma, so getting a hard case of the flu can mean hospitalization. There is no contest in my mind at all – they both received their H1N1 vaccine and I'm waiting for my PCP to get another batch in because I'm getting one as well. It will be my FIRST flu shot of any kind. I'm over 50 and the body's natural defenses are not what they used to be.


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