Flu shot

20 11 2009

So I went yesterday and got the H1N1 flu shot, since members of the general public are now allowed to go and get one. I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to get it at all last night – it took me until nearly 6:00 to get to my nearest flu shot clinic (the North Toronto recreation centre at Eglinton west of Yonge), and I figured that the lineup might be huge. The City of Toronto has a website up in which they keep track of the lineups at the various clinics; some lineups were 90 minutes long even before the end of the work day.

When I got there, I discovered that their system went like this: I got into a line outside the building, at which point a hard-working volunteer gave me a ticket for 7:00. I had the choice of staying in line, or of coming back at 7. I chose the latter so that I could go and get something to eat.

At about 10 to 7, I went back and rejoined the outside line, which took about half an hour to make my way through. It would have taken a little less time, but one of the security guards was allowing people who were coming back with tickets to join the front of the line, which slowed things up a bit. Eventually, someone else took over and put a stop to that.

Inside the rec centre, the main North Toronto gym had been turned into a flu clinic. It was actually quite efficient – there were half a dozen people at a desk in front of the gym who were taking down information and putting it into their online records. They even had a swipe machine to automatically enter your driver’s license and health card information.

After that, prospective vaccinees (is that a word?) were led into the gym in groups of roughly eight. We were directed to chairs to wait in. There were about 16 people giving out flu shots, and one person in the room was in charge of directing people to these stations as they became free.

The process of getting the shot didn’t take long at all. The nurse asked me the standard questions, including whether or not I was pregnant. I said no. The shot itself is administered in the shoulder – it wasn’t particularly painful – and then I was told to wait 15 minutes in another group of chairs to ensure that I didn’t have some sort of unexpected reaction to the vaccine. I passed the time by reading about Total Recall: apparently, in the future, memory and broadband capacity will become so cheap and omnipresent that we could all choose to record every moment of our lives and everything we ever read or saw, if we decide to do that. Hmmm. During the time I was there, out of the dozens of people I saw who got the shot, only one person had a bad reaction to the vaccine.

When I got home, my shoulder was a little sore but not too bad, and I felt some fatigue: I don’t remember the hour between 10:00 and 11:00 pm. (Mind you, I was very short on sleep yesterday, which would have affected this.) But I feel okay today. As I understand it (from reading a Globe and Mail article on the subject), the vaccine works by tricking the body into thinking that it has contracted the H1N1 virus when in fact it really hasn’t. The body goes to work producing antibodies to fend off a non-existent invader, thus producing immunity to the virus (and generating some fatigue). This apparently takes 7 to 10 days to work. I wonder what would happen if I actually caught the virus during this period – would I heal more quickly? I hope not to find out.

Going in, I had no worries about whether the vaccine is safe or not – by now, millions of Canadians, most of whom are the most vulnerable to disease, have already been immunized. While I understand that it’s a good idea not to trust the government (especially when the government is led by the Conservative Party), some of the anti-vaccine commenters on various web sites seem to be exhibiting unusual levels of paranoia.

I got the shot because (a) I don’t particularly want to get the flu (I got seasonal influenza in 2007, and I don’t want to go through that again); (b) I felt I had a public health responsibility to do so. If I got the flu, I would likely feel like crap for several days, but nothing really bad would be likely to happen to me; however, during the time that I was contagious, I would run the risk of infecting someone in a high-risk group.




2 responses

25 11 2009

In the interest of sharing stories, here was today’s situation at a Waterloo clinic:

Arrived 4:20 (left work early). Same system with swiping health cards. Same 16 people giving out shots, with one person directing you to available people. Probably provincially mandated–did you have one or two security personnel and two or three EMS workers just hanging around, in case they were needed?

As soon as I got in line, it kept moving, and I was back on the street by ten to five. Waiting after the shot took more time than everything leading up to it.

An interesting note: every worker who had a laptop (there were at least 25 of them) had the exact same Toshiba model. They wouldn’t purchase laptops purely for this, would they? So they must have gotten a deal on them sometime in the past.

25 11 2009


“When I got home, my shoulder was a little sore but not too bad, and I felt some fatigue: I don’t remember the hour between 10:00 and 11:00 pm.”

This is almost precisely true for me; I plan to be asleep by 10. The fatigue is notable.

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