I’m so sick of hearing about it at the same time that I can’t get enough information. The vaccine scares me, and I’m not one to be afraid of vaccines. My kids got all their shots, and I believe in keeping the herd healthy so that those who can’t – or won’t – get vaccinated might still be protected. I get frustrated when I hear largely uneducated people making summary judgements and ill-informed statements about the correlation between vaccines and autism. I have faith in my doctor, in the Physician’s Society, in my medical system, and when they tell me that the risks are higher, and more serious, if I were to opt against vaccinating, I believe them.
And yet, I’m still nervous about this vaccine. I still haven’t been convinced that it was tested well enough to really know it is safe. I can’t shake the fear that we may, years from now when facing some other medical calamity, regret the political choices that were made to fast-track a vaccine in order to respond to public outcry. What if there is a problem? Who could have stood up and said, ‘sorry guys, we’re just not ready yet’, when the international race was on to get the liquid in the vials and the needles in the arms? What poor shmo at the Public Health Agency could have had the courage – amidst the mounting hysteria – to put the brakes on this thing?
I feel as if I’m drowning in paranoia. The hype stretches and twirls around me, like a tornado waiting to touch down in the trailer park that is my family, and it terrifies me. Rationally, I know that most people don’t die from this thing. Rationally, I understand that the flu kills some people every year, but that most of us will just get ill, feel crappy for a few days, and then slowly drag ourselves back into the land of the living, not much worse for wear.
My oldest daughter was born smack-dab in the middle of the SARS outbreak. Although I was fairly quarantined in the maternity ward, I really wasn’t afraid. I was a healthy, 30-something year old woman, and I didn’t have anything to lose. Or, more clearly, I hadn’t learned yet just how much I had to lose. I loved my daughter from the minute I felt her evacuating my body, but I wasn’t yet capable of comprehending that gut-wrenching, gag-inducing terror that comes with the idea of potentially losing a child. That would come later, soon enough, but not in time for me to be afraid of SARS. And we all came out of that just fine.
But you see, right now my other little girl, the one who came into this world 19 months after her sister and SARS, is sick. Just a cold; I’m sure it’s just a cold (it’s just a cold, right?). No fever, no vomiting, sore throat, and an aching, wretched cough that keeps us all up at night, me rushing to her bedside, climbing in behind her to listen to her breath and casually touch her forehead. Every cough sends a jolt of fear through me: what if we’re wrong? What if one of my babies becomes the next conundrum of a healthy child, suddenly dead? It’s a thought I can’t bear to wrap my brain around, and it drives me to want to stand in the four-hour long line-ups to get the shot.
I don’t (stand in the line-up). I won’t. My kids are out of, and only days from being out of, the ‘priority’ group, and I won’t take the vaccine from someone who really might be at greater risk than us. But where once I was standing fairly firmly on the side of NOT injecting some foreign, potentially dangerous substance into my arm (and, more importantly, my babies’ arms), now I am teetering across that line, pushed by paranoia, certainly, but also pushed by my own, home-grown, organic fear.