So, are you getting the H1N1 flu shot?

I don’t get sick.

I’ve had all of the popular childhood diseases and ailments: measles, mumps, chickenpox, a mild case of hepatitis A, pleurisy and poison ivy. I’m now borderline for diabetes and I suffer from male pattern baldness.

The only bout of flu I’ve had came after pulling an all-nighter to get the newspaper out, followed by a night of Scotch and darts at the legion hall.

The only time I’ve ever missed a day of work (50 actually) was when I broke my leg in three places — and I still managed to do work from home. Back in the day, I come to work hungover a few times after going to the bar with co-workers the night before.

So why is the first question anyone asks these days, “Are you getting the H1N1 flu shot?”

Probably because the odds are pretty good that the guy sneezing all over the drive-thru mike and asking “Do you want fries with that?” won’t be getting the shot. A poll released last weekend showed that almost half of Canadians do not plan to get the vaccine created to stop the H1N1 flu.

Thirty per cent of those surveyed said they are not at all likely to roll up their sleeves, while 18 per cent said they are not very likely, according to a poll by Ipsos Reid for Canwest News Service and Global National.

The results reflect the division among Canadians who are now debating what to do when the H1N1 flu shot is available in their communities, as well as the challenge public health officials have ahead of them in trying to tip the balance toward immunization.

I guess I’m from the “If you don’t feel well you go to work but if you feel sick stay home” school of medicine. I meet a lot of you as I am out in the community covering events important to you. And I gotta tell ya, some of you ain’t all that healthy. Any parent will tell you elementary schools are a petri dish waiting to mutate and the same goes for churches, hockey rinks and lineups at the bank — anywhere we get together to share each other’s misery.

I spent two days in Ottawa last week lobbying for a fair break for community newspapers and I shook the hand of a lot of politicians and bureaucrats — and you just don’t know whose back pocket their hands have been in.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler-Jones tried to counter fears and confusion during a news conference, in which he made the case for vaccination. “There is a very real risk of the flu. Even in its mildest form, it’s miserable and, at its worst, it kills or puts into ICUs and on ventilator support perfectly previous healthy young people,” said Butler-Jones. “The choice is simple: a safe and effective preventive vaccine or a very real risk of disease. If we get the real facts about the vaccine, you will almost certainly choose immunization.”

OK, once you strip away the hysteria, is H1N1 more like the Black Death or Y2K?

Working against public health officials is that Dr. Chuck N. Little has been calling the next one the big one for so long that anything that must be the one that will turn us all into flesh-eating zombies.

Avian flu, swine flu, AIDS, SARS, West Nile — they were all supposed to cull the herd. They all pale in comparison of course to the upwards of two million souls malaria kills every year but because those unfortunate folks live in sub-Saharan Africa, they are invisible to the hype of media and Big Pharmaceutical.

The poll also showed 34 per cent of Canadians aren’t certain it has been tested sufficiently and proven to be safe, and 29 per cent fear they could actually get the H1N1 flu from the vaccine itself. No vaccine is 100 per cent effective but vaccination significantly reduces the odds of contracting influenza. You’re more likely at a higher risk of being struck and killed by lightning than dying from some fatal side effect from the vaccine.

Most Canadians said they are washing their hands, using hand sanitizer and coughing in their sleeves more often than they were before. If only I had purchased shares in one of those hand sanitizer companies when I had the chance.

Not withstanding that we want our families to live in a healthy community, our economy would relapse if key players were unable to go to work and provide the services we need to function as a society.

Vaccination is our best, and safest, line of defense.

So, are you getting the H1N1 flu shot?

–30–

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