For all you parents of trick-or-treaters worried about creepy neighbor Jerry popping a roofie into your kid’s “fun-sized” glucose glob, I’d be more concerned about Junior’s little costumed friends and the sticky, slobbery, flu-infested mucosal secretions all over their chubby hands. Why? Because swine flu doesn’t seem to understand that it’s supposed to kill off old, sick people languishing in nursing homes instead of healthy little children and glowing pregnant women. That’s right. 95% of hospitalizations have occurred in those under 65 years old, with 45% occurring in children under 18. Believe it or not, the situation isn’t all just media hype and scare tactics. It’s ugly out there. True, not everyone dies or ends up in the hospital, but even an uncomplicated course of swine flu will park your ass in bed for a week or longer. So these days, I’m more worried about kids catching H1N1 than swallowing a razor blade hidden in a popcorn ball.
So there’s the usual “I don’t trust the government/science/western medicine/drug companies” grumbling over the H1N1 vaccine. Yeah, I get it. Sure, sure. Whatever. You’re not going to blow my freakin’ mind with the argument that the pharmaceutical industry WANTS us to be scared and WANTS us to get the vaccine because that means lotsa cash for them. I understand that profit is a motivating factor. That doesn’t really change the risk/benefits analysis all that much, nor does it change the fact that both the H1N1 shot and nasal spray are safe and effective, even for pregnant women (Tamma, Ault, del Rio, Steinhoff, Halsey, & Omer, Sept. 2009). So, if you’re able to, I’d toss a dose of H1N1 vaccine into your Halloween treat bag this weekend. Here’s info on how to pay for it. Here’s info on who should get vaccinated first. If you live in New Mexico, you can try these clinics, or contact your regular health care provider (if you’re lucky enough to have one). While you’re there, consider getting a seasonal flu vaccine as well (seasonal flu is different from H1N1 swine flu, and you’ll need a separate vaccine for each one.)
Hey, you also might want to throw a pneumococcal vaccine into your goody bag as well, since many viral flu deaths occur in people who develop bacterial pneumonia in addition to the flu.
And while you rot your enamel with sweet sugary Halloween candy, ponder the fact that we’ll soon have a vaccine against cavities (Li et al., 2009; Nui et al., 2009; Lui et al., 2009; etc., etc. Apparently Asia is all over this one.)
Too old to need anti-party vaccines? Keep holdin’ out for that vaccine against Alzheimer’s!
But whatever you do, don’t toss the condoms just yet. The new HIV vaccine was only 30% effective (which is still a major breakthrough).
There’s a whole exciting world of novel vaccines out there. From anthrax to cancer, the boring ol’ CDC vaccine schedules are about to get a whole lot more interesting. For now, though, I’ll be happy if I’m able to get immunized against the dreaded swine flu before I catch it from one of my germy little patients. Secretly, though, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for an anti-cellulite vaccine…