I’m a bit tired of hearing complaints about the flu shot campaigns on twitter, facebook, and other social sites where lies and misinformation spread quicker than real information. The problem with the truth about things in science is that they often require more than 140 characters to do justice.
If it’s not complaints citing Alex Jones blog posts about how the government is trying to kill us with an “untested” vaccine or trying to implant us with microchips or other crazy, it’s about how the government isn’t following through or how some corporation wants to see people suffer. Crazy is one thing that you can’t really fight against, but misinformation may have a chance at being corrected.
“Glaxo is screwing up the vaccine shipments!”
“The government didn’t order enough!”
“There’s a shortage of vaccine! OMG! We’re going to die!”
I’ve seen variations of all of those sentiments from people on social networks. Sadly, much of the panic could have been avoided had the various governments in Canada and the news media been more upfront with plans, with numbers, with facts. Instead, we have people envisioning ebola or flesh eating disease.
Relax just a bit; most people who do contract H1N1 are going to be just fine, after they feel like they’re going to die for a week with the flu. The flu is horrible and debilitating, and that’s my primary reason for getting the shot; I don’t like fevers.
Here in Toronto, people are being asked to allow the more at risk to go first so that the clinics can get them first. Now, more at risk includes a lot of people by Ontario’s guidelines; going so far as to allow for the herd. If you are in Toronto and you have daily contact with someone at risk or someone who can’t get the vaccine, then you should head to the Toronto clinics and get the shot.
I have been hearing horrible stories from other provinces, of clinics not following the guidelines for patient selection, etc. Alberta and Nova Scotia are sounding badly planned, with very narrow selection criteria for priority treatment.
I went to the downtown Toronto clinic yesterday afternoon at 4:30pm. From filling out the form to injection, I was in line for five minutes and spent five with the person doing the actual injection. They request that you stay for 15 additional minutes of monitoring by health workers, on the minor chance that you have an allergic reaction. I left after a total time commitment of half an hour; in exchange I have a really good chance of avoiding feeling like crap for a couple weeks.
Andre Picard from the Globe and Mail has an interesting summary of the timeline in Canada’s vaccination campaign, with some really surprising numbers.
In the real world, it takes about six months to produce industrial quantities of vaccine. You harvest some seed stock and then you grow the virus in eggs. It takes time.
Canada decided early to err on the side of caution and invoke its pandemic preparedness plan. That includes ordering enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of the population with two doses each.
Fast forward to the fall. Production of the actual vaccine actually begins. There have been no delays. The vaccine started rolling off the production line at GlaxoSmithKline in Ste-Foy, Que., in October. It had to be tested and then held for a certain time to ensure there is no contamination.