Returning to H1N1 | Fit Pregnancy

Returning to H1N1

11.18.09 Fear of vaccines and making the wrong choice

My recent blog about H1N1 stirred up some passionate debates.  The last time I had so many comments was when I wrote about a woman trying to find a doctor/hospital willing to do VBACs.  I sarcastically said, “Yeah, good luck with that,” and got some angry responses from readers who didn’t get my sarcasm. They thought I agreed with the prevailing medical practice of “once a c-section, always a c-section.”  I wrote a follow-up blog explaining that, in fact, I do support VBACs and don’t think that fear of a worst-case scenario should dictate every woman’s delivery options.  Even though bad things happen sometimes, I still believe in common sense.

Most responses to my flu blog have been happy, relieved and frankly, grateful for a less than terrifying article about H1N1.  There were a few though who thought my more relaxed perspective was irresponsible and meant I don’t think people should worry about flu at all since I wasn’t focusing everything on the worst-case scenario –those who’ve been hospitalized or died.

I’d like to clarify something here: Saying, “Relax, take a deep breath, you’re more than likely going to be OK even if you catch the flu” doesn’t mean I’m not concerned.  I am.  Flu sucks. We’re recovering from it at my house and I’m grateful it wasn’t worse. Most people won’t go to the ICU or die, however. There are plenty of articles out there directed toward the scariest outcome of catching the flu.  My blog is for the rest of us and I think, the majority of us. 

I also didn’t say, “Don’t get vaccinated.”  Instead, I recommended women talk to their health care providers. In many places, vaccines aren’t available. For those of you who you can’t or decide not to get a vaccine, you’ll still probably be OK, even if you get the flu. 

Vaccinations are a very polarized subject these days fueled in large part by fear.  Those with extreme opinions are the most vocal and keep the spotlight on frightening worst-case scenarios.  Some think anyone who doesn’t vaccinate is irresponsible, negligent and putting their health, children and community at dire risk.  Others think anyone who does vaccinate is irresponsible and might as well sign up for autism. No wonder people are afraid. No matter what you do, you’re taking a risk.

As parents, you’re going to have to make a lot of decisions about your child’s health and well being and many will come with extreme perspectives:  epidurals, circumcision and discipline, just to name a few.  Here’s how you make those decisions: Take the best information available, talk to your healthcare providers and then, use your head and go with your gut. It’ll always be about risk versus benefit. With vaccines it’s a balance between personal immunity and the health of the community versus risks associated with the vaccination itself.  So far, we don’t know about any for-sure-and-certain flu vaccine risks but we do know for-sure-and-certain, a lot of people can’t or won’t get one.  Relax. Take a deep breath.  Whatever you do, it’ll probably be OK.

Some people feel I’m irresponsible not to hammer home another stern warning about flu along with a mandate that everyone get vaccinated, or else.  Sorry, guys, I think there’s already enough of that going around. Plus, I value most people’s ability to make their own best healthcare decisions.  Do I think vaccinations are a good idea?  In most cases, certainly, but I recognize they’re not for everyone. 

I got emails from women who were as terrified of the flu as they were the vaccine.  They were torn apart about what to do; afraid if they didn’t (or couldn’t) get vaccinated, they’d die but also afraid the vaccine might do something horrible to their babies. That’s why I stand by my message:  Relax, take a deep breath.  You’re more than likely going to be fine whether you get the flu or get the vaccine.  The odds are in your favor.  Now, if you still think I’m being irresponsible because I’m not adding to flu-terror, then please read the paragraph included at the end of every blog:

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.

My blog is just one perspective and shouldn’t be the basis for making healthcare decisions.  Extreme fear shouldn’t be either.  Let’s find a middle ground and make best-case choices.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to labornurse@fitpregnancy.com and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.

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