Every Monday since September, I've been calling our doctor, one of four in a small family practice, and hearing the same apologetic answer to my question: "I'm sorry, but we're out - we get so little of it in." Sometimes that reply is changed to, "I'm sorry, we didn't get any at all this week."
I'm talking, of course, about the H1N1 vaccine. There's just none to be had. I went back and forth, back and forth in August, trying to decide whether or not I wanted to have myself and the girls innoculated with this new vaccine. The three of us have risk factors: I have Type 2 diabetes and they, of course, are teenagers. We do have two young cousins, twenty-six year old Nicole and eighteen year old Heidi, who have both had H1N1 and recovered just fine, although Heidi was hospitalized because of her high fever, but still....
At the end of August, the triage nurse at the office told me that I should call on Mondays to "check for availability." That didn't sound a warning knell in my mind, but evidently the office staff already suspected that there were going to be shortages.
Every Monday through September, October and early November, I called the office on Monday to check for availability, happy that it didn't require an appointment to get a shot; we could just pop in at our convenience. That's not the way it worked out, however. There were simply no vials of the vaccine anywhere on the premises. What little was shipped to the office was immediately snapped up by people who were a little more quick on the draw than I was.
After a particularly horrible bout of the regular seasonal flu Aisling and I shared three years ago, I have made DARNED SURE to get a vaccine and it has been lovely to not be sick. I was particularly torqued about getting so dog-sick three years back because Aisling and I had to miss the performance of Twelfth Night at the Indiana Repertory Theater, a performance which my entire Shakespeare class had to attend without me, one which we had tickets for something like three months in advance. Never again, I thought grimly. I am getting a shot always from now on.
But H1N1 is scary to me, probably because of all the media hype surrounding it. I know lots of people who've had it; several kids in my religious ed class, the children of internet friends and home school group students. I don't personally know anyone who's died; that's more like a friend's sister's brother-in-law sort of thing, and just this morning the news came out that Indianapolis radio talk show host Greg Garrison (93.1 WIBC) lost his son-in-law to complications from H1N1. Greg's daughter is expecting the couple's third child in January.
"My daughter had been exposed. We knew her husband was in critical condition with the bug. She's eight months pregnant and we can't find a shot for her and we cast about until we finally found one and she got it," Greg was quoted in the article I linked to above. He says that it took the family a week to find vaccine, in time to help her, but too late for her husband, who was thirty-seven years old.
This is really upsetting. I mean, really. There are lots of folks out there comparing the Obama administration's ham-handed fumbling of the vaccine ball to the Bush administration's foot-dragging response in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and I can see how they're drawing that parallel. And what this means about the competence of our government to handle the entire health care system for a big country with lots of people is something I find I don't want to even contemplate; the ramifications are too appalling.
With supplies so low and few vaccines to be had, I suppose millions of us out here are left with nothing more to do than pray for God's mercy and protection. Which is, of course, always a good thing to do, but something one would somehow feel better about if one could at least take the precautions that seem sensible.
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