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The H1N1 pandemic in 2009  affected everyone in the world. Did you receive the H1N1...

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nadaazer | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted May 20, 2013 at 4:46 PM via web

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The H1N1 pandemic in 2009  affected everyone in the world.

Did you receive the H1N1 flu vaccine? Why or why not? Can you speak a little bit about the pros and cons of spending tax money on voluntary mass vaccination to stop the spread of the H1N1 virus?

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ncchemist | eNotes Employee

Posted May 21, 2013 at 1:17 AM (Answer #1)

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The H1N1 viral flu of 2009-2010 was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.  It was contracted by many people all over the world and killed several thousand.  It was a subtype of the influenza A virus that had not been documented before.  I personally did not get a flu vaccination shot that year.  In fact, I haven't gotten a flu shot in several years.  So I guess you could say that the media coverage did not influence me very much because the media was closely following and covering the flu outbreak.  I personally chose not to get a flu shot because I am in a low risk category for dangerous flu complications.  Most people who died from the flu were either young children, elderly, or had an already weakened immune system (from a prior medical condition).  These are the most dangerous people to get the flu because their immune systems may not be able to effectively handle it.  But relatively healthy young to middle aged adults are not likely to die from the flu.  I fit this category, plus I do not work with the general public so I am a low risk factor for the flu (hence my decision).

In general, I would support the use of tax money to make mass flu vaccinations available to the general public.  This is mostly due to economic factors.  Unfortunately, there is not a lot of money to be made most years from flu vaccinations so most healthcare companies don't bother with it very much.  Also, it is very difficult to try to predict which strain of flu (there are numerous) will be the most widespread for any given winter, and by the time an outbreak occurs it really is too late because these vaccinations take time to produce and distribute.  But it makes economic sense to me for the government to get involved since most businesses will choose not to.

In terms of social effects of mass vaccinations, they are mostly detrimental.  The media tends to hype these things up, thus causing people to panic, demand surges, and suddenly there are shortages of the flu shots and long lines when it becomes available.  This is obviously negative.  So mass vaccinations need to be coupled with a little education.  People need to be made aware whether or not they fall into a high risk category as explained above.  These people need to be given first priority for available supply.  Most healthy adults who do contract the flu would be best served to simply stay out from work or school for a few days during the most contagious period to help minimize the spread of the flu. 

Let's not lose sight of the bigger picture here.  This pandemic killed a few thousand people globally.  Other factors like alcohol or tobacco kill more people on an average year.  Also, flu pandemics of the past before modern medicine and microbiology were far more fatal.  The flu pandemic at the end of WWI killed literally millions of people globally.  When viewed in this light, the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 was actually a very manageable problem.

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