The H1N1 Vaccine: The Other Side
By Bekah Oester
I will be the first to admit, vaccines make me uncomfortable. The thought of injecting yourself with an illness to prevent an illness has always struck me as odd. I will also admit that for the longest time I ignored all of the H1N1 hype because I didn't understand what made it a bigger deal than any other flu. But, H1N1, illnesses, and vaccines are all a part of life, and as college students, we are adults responsible for making our own informed decisions. I know most of you are probably sick of hearing about H1N1, but allow me to bring some clarity to the issue.
Most of you are probably wondering why I'm saying H1N1 and not "swine flu." While "swine flu," does roll off the tongue easier, and I am just as guilty as saying it, the truth is, it is an inaccurate term. The illness is not from pigs, and you will not likely get it from eating pork. The pork industry has lost millions of dollars since the media first announced the illness, and in this economy, nobody needs to suffer such losses. Let's try to be socially responsible with this one.
The illness is very similar to a regular seasonal flu. The reason more people are concerned about H1N1 is because the strand is mutated enough that it could infect more people than a regular seasonal flu could. Regular flu shots as well as our immune systems can help protect from seasonal flu, but naturally, our bodies have not been exposed to H1N1, making everyone vulnerable.
As far as the vaccine is concerned, there is truth in the fact that a vaccine made for H1N1 in 1976 did cause harm to individuals; many people who got the vaccine experienced a neurological condition. This is a scary fact, but it is important to remember that this was 33 years ago. How far has American medicine come since then? The current H1N1 vaccine began clinical trials in early August in an effort to make it available to the public by October. All participants are told of the potential risks of the vaccine including the 1976 case before receiving the shot and can stop participating at any time.
I know two participants who have been vaccinated and are perfectly well. One of the participants is also an employee working on the study, and has told me that so far (about a month now), there have been no repeated symptoms similar to those in 1976. The most common side effects reported to date are headaches and soreness at the injection site, symptoms that are common with any shot. The worst side effect reported was an allergic reaction which has only happened once.
When the vaccine is available to the public, it is worth considering for everybody. The seasonal flu shot will not protect you from H1N1. It is wise to get both shots, but if you can only get one, it would be wiser to get the H1N1 shot as that is the strand most likely to infect people this season. H1N1 is already appearing on college campuses this fall including BSU, so do your part in protecting yourself: practice good hygiene, and using this information and your own research, at least consider the vaccine.