October 31, 2009

The H1N1 Vaccine

This week, after hearing about the death of a 13-year-old Toronto-area boy and the death of 10-year-old Cornwall girl, the hubby and I, like many Ontario parents freaked out. We've always planned get the H1N1 immunization, but all of a sudden, this week, it seemed so URGENT.

I spent a couple of hours on Wednesday and Thursday trying to figure out where all the flu clinics in the GTA were, along with their their hours of operation. After sorting through the gigantic mess of contradicting and out-dated information, we realized that the only downtown clinic would be open on Friday for high-risk people, and on Monday for the general public. It would NOT be open on the weekend. I was floored. It's not like people ONLY live in the suburbs. And the people who DO live downtown have kids too. Our options were to either go on Friday, go on the weekend but have to trek outside of the downtown core to get the vaccine, or wait until Monday, when the downtown clinic would be open again.

Burning a day of work wasn't ideal for either of us. For me, even though I have a charge code for family-related medical activities, I didn't want to miss a day at work because we're in the middle of crunch-time. The hubby doesn't even HAVE such a charge code, so he would end up having to charge the day to vacation. In the end, parental paranoia won out, and we decided to suck it up and lose the workday. PK's health, after all, is of top priority to us. My boss, who is usually pretty understanding about these things, seemed a bit miffed that I would most likely end up missing an entire day of work. Since he wasn't planning on getting his family immunized due to fears of lack of proper testing of the vaccine, I don't think he was too sympathetic to my cause. Still, I did get the green light from him. BTW, if you're looking on a good FAQ about the H1N1 vaccine, check out the Globe & Mail's article.

The clinic opened up at 10am on Friday, but after hearing reports all week about how there were long line-ups of people at various clinics across the country and how some people had to be turned away, we decided that the hubby would line up early in the morning, and that PK and I would join him closer to 10am.

He got to the clinic site just before 7:30am, and there were already about 100 or so people in front of him. Just after 8am, he texted me saying that I might want to come down sooner, since the line was moving and there were rumors that the clinic would be opening up earlier. So I inhaled my breakfast and got PK up. I packed her breakfast and her formula so that she could eat en route.

We got to the clinic just before 9am. The line-up was already quite long. News crews were everywhere. You could tell that they were dying for the Toronto Public Health workers to start turning people away so that they could get a few angry reactions from people.

I brought the camera with me, and took pictures of the crowds. I also took a bunch of pictures on my BlackBerry and posted them to Facebook.

PK was a real trooper throughout this whole ordeal. Her routine was pretty much turned upside-down. She didn't have her morning toilet time. She didn't have her morning yogurt. She ate her cereal on the go. And her naptime would most certainly get screwed up.

After she was done eating, we let her walk around. There was plenty of room for her to walk around, and she had a blast. The hubby and I took turns walking around with her. Close to 10am, she started getting hyper. The type of hyper that comes with being tired. It was, after all, her usual naptime. Unfortunately, since everything was thrown off, she was having a hard time falling asleep. She wouldn't nap in the stroller, so I put her in the carrier and walked around the block a couple of times. The line was HUGE by that time, and I was sad to realize that many of those pregnant women and families with kids who had shown up just a little too late would end up being turned away.

After our second walk around the block, PK was still awake and it had started to rain. Fortunately, there was cover where we were standing in line, but it was starting to get cold. PK was getting restless. PK was still in the carrier as I danced around and sang to her. Then I just stood and swayed for a while. She settled down, and ended up taking a little snooze.

By that time, we were totally chatting it up with a few of the people in line with us. Our conversations consisted of:

  1. The older woman in our group wandering off on reconnaissance missions to figure out what the hell was going on and coming back to relay information to us.
  2. How gross the bathrooms at the clinic site were.
  3. How it sucked that there was only one downtown clinic and that it wouldn't be open on the weekend.
  4. How the city did some really poor planning for the roll-out of the vaccine and how they could've had time to roll out an automated system whereby people could sign up for clinic times.
  5. How so many of the people behind us wouldn't make it in.
The people just behind us (not part of our little gossip group) ended up being interviewed by CityTV. We were half-disappointed that they didn't want to interview us. After all, we DID have a cute baby with us. At the same time, the media always seem to take things out of context when they splice a story together, so we were probably better off.

By around noon, we were finally let in. That's when the line REALLY started moving. It's ironic that that happened, because we were given these questionnaires that we had to fill out before getting the shots. Not only were there no tables for writing on, the line was moving too fast, and pens were in short supply but high demand.

We finally made it to the front of the line. The hubby got vaccinated first, followed by PK, then me. I held PK while she got her left arm jabbed. By that point, she had already dirtied her soother, and the only thing we had that could comfort her was her sippy cup full of water. She was a bit squirmy when she got the shot, and she certainly cried, but then the woman who administered the vaccine gave PK a lollipop, and life was good again. (We pried the lollipop out of her hands when it was time to leave, and she was NOT happy about that. Note to self: never, EVER give PK a lollipop again. Waaaay too much of a sugar rush for such a little thing.) We stuck around for 15 minutes to make sure that there were no reactions to the vaccine, and then we were on our merry way, relieved to have gotten zapped.

We were home by 1:45pm, at which time we had lunch, and soon after, put PK down for a 2-hour nap. We used that time to get some work done.

Later that evening, we had CBC news on, and heard that the vaccination clinics will no longer be open to the general public on Monday, as originally planned. Instead, they will be focusing only on the high-risk groups. That meant that if we went on Monday (or maybe even on Saturday), the hubby and I would not have been allowed to get vaccinated. I feel very grateful that, in spite of the long wait, we were able to get our shots. And it was certainly quite an adventurous Friday!

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