People is Odd

I was surprised the other day when I read Leah’s blog, because Leah lives somewhere in Bohunk, USA and they were offering H1N1 vaccines at her son’s school to any kid who wanted it FOR FREE.

Meanwhile, in the land of mystical, magical health care (Canada), people can only get the vaccine if they line up for hours (often 7 or more hours and in the rain) at centers specially designated to dispense the vaccine and only those centers and only during certain hours of certain days, and now that they’re all running out of the vaccine, only people who are pre-screened and deemed to be at risk (and hockey players) are allowed to get it.

What’s the deal? Is all of the US awash with H1N1 vaccines?  Why is  this so complicated in Canada?


The other thing that I find interesting about this whole H1N1 hysteria is that people are frightened and worked up enough about the very small possibility of becoming ill from this flu or the even small possibility of becoming gravely ill or dying from this flu that they’ll stand in line for an entire day to get vaccinated; that they’ll buy a priority wrist band from someone else, who got it for free, in order to get their shot at staying healthy; that they’ll get into heated arguments with friends and family over the sheer “stupidity and recklessness”  of someone choosing not to get vaccinated.

And yet, these same people will scoff at and ignore suggestions that they make some small adjustments to their lifestyle in order to help prevent the very large probability of getting and maybe dying of cancer, heart disease, diabetes or other lifestyle-related and life-threatening illnesses.


Like every other workplace, mine is in the throes of freaking out about our pandemic plans and business contingency plans. How do we keep churning out vitally important government crap if everyone drops with flu at once? This eventuality needs to be meticulously planned for, in great detail and at great length.

So we’re writing up reams of documents – charts, graphs, spreadsheets – my god, the spreadsheets! And meetings! The meetings are endless. I had to go to one yesterday in a room they’re calling “The War Room” – where all the important pandemic-related spreadsheets are populated, stored and gazed at.

The room was tiny. And stuffy. And so freakin’ smelly. A small crowd of people work tirelessly in there with a bank of secure computers. They eat in there. They work in there late into the night. They come in on weekends. They’ve cancelled all their leave and vacations. They’re estranged from their friends and families. They never leave except to go home and shower and catch a few winks of anxiety-riddled sleep.

There was no air in the room. It was overly hot. (And did I mention smelly?). There was a big box of donuts in the middle of the table from which everyone was automatically and unthinkingly shovelling powdery, fried dough treats into their maw at regular intervals.

Everyone in the room was sick. Coughing, sneezing, watery eyes. They all looked tired, unkempt; a little manic. They were all at a strange level of hyper-stress.

“I am NOT sitting in this room with these people for an hour.” I thought to myself, trying not to inhale the funk of bacteria I could physically feel swarming around me. I sat by the door, almost in the doorway,  and insisted on leaving the door open. It made them very nervous. I Purelled myself thoroughly. They looked at me like they thought I had mental issues.

The meeting was completely unproductive even by normal meeting standards.

32 responses to “People is Odd

  1. The vaccine is not widely available in the US yet. Yes, there are some places where it is available. However, my grandson, who has asthma and is, therefore, in one of the high risk groups, has not been able to get it.

    Bureaucracies are insane…. very little value added.

  2. i was very surprised that they were offering them for free too. i know we live in a wealthy district and all the classrooms have smartboards and the like but free? seriously?

    i’m opting out of the shot and i’m certain some will judge me and say i suck as a mother but that’s been done already so the shock is gone. going by my gut as a mom has ALWAYS served me well and i can’t back out of that process now.

    my son already has two kids in his class that were diagnosed with the h1n1 and have come back to school already, doesn’t that mean he can weather the rest of the storm of the h1n1 hysteria? i think it does.

    that meeting room you described, at the beginning i thought “well that’s a FLU ROOM waiting to happen”. jeebus people. i feel for you on it b/c i would be freaking out about entering it too.

    maybe you can get some lysol or something similar to spray it down with. i have an alternative product i use that is as effective as lysol without all the chemicals that will kill you. it’s melalueca, have we discussed that before?

    i’ll be coming back here later to catch up on my special xup lady writing, have been unable to read as much lately.


  3. it’s not widely available here on the West coast; i wonder if the distribution plan has changed, so that hot spots with confirmed cases (such as schools) are getting offered the vaccine while other areas are denied. it would make a sort of sense, from a public health perspective.

  4. I wouldn’t paint it as simple as “Canada” and “the US”. Different provinces have different vaccine distribution schemes (I hear it’s really easy and widely available in Alberta, for example–or at least in Edmonton).

    On the topic of office contingency plans, ours is pretty much: “if you feel sick stay at home”; “we’ll probably still pay you so you don’t try to work while sick and infect the rest of us” (lots of us are unsalaried); and “nobody’s going to use it, but here’s a token bottle of hand sanitizer in the common area”.

    We’ve also reviewed our general contingency plans, e.g. someone getting hit by a car and dying with nobody else knowing the passwords to their documents. That’s useful to have worked out, pandemic or no.

    – RG>

  5. Kinda weird where I live. There are several H1N1 vaccine clinics within a 100 km radius. But all of them operate during the day, and close no later than 6-7 PM.

    Well, that’s just GREAT for retired seniors, and stay-at-home parents. But what about those high-risk people who have to work during the day? (including working Moms?)

    Funny, they how the people who pay the lion’s share of taxes to pay for all this are the ones being penalized by having to take vacation and/or time off work to their shots.

    If this flu is so freaking important, then GOD FORBID should they keep even ONE of those clinics open late, to give the rest of us a chance. (Even 8-9 PM…I wouldn’t think that would be unreasonable).

    That being said, I took part of the afternoon off (which will mean a ding in my paycheck) to get my shot, and the whole process took 25 minutes (including my 15 minute wait afterwards).

    (???). Guess I was lucky, that time.

    Small towns. Go figure.

  6. I’m not getting the shot, either. I am far more likely to be killed on the roads going to school today then to have even moderate illness due to H1N1. I’m good with those odds.

  7. The hysteria in the UK is calming down a little now as the media seem to have got bored of hyping it up. Only ‘at risk’ groups are offered the jab and it is free of charge and done to suit you at your doctors surgery or at your home. I know quite a few people that have had Swine Flu (including myself) and it has been unpleasant (what flu isnt?) but over and done within a week. Some people suffering from Swine Flu have taken Tamiflu tablets to speed up the process (they cost around £8 and have to be prescribed) but I chose not to and dont think my symptoms lasted any longer than those of my friends who chose to take the tablets.

  8. Mike – Considering we’re supposed to be in the middle (or maybe even the tail end) of this almost-pandemic and only a small percentage of people are able to get the vaccine, it all seems a bit odd.

    Leah – Well, we get it free, too, if we could get it, which we can’t. The school board must have bought up a batch. I don’t think you suck as a mother at all. I read your inner debate on this and there didn’t seem a compelling reason to go ahead with it; husband’s insistence not withstanding.

    Hallie – If it makes sense then they’re probably doing the opposite. It’s good to know Canada isn’t the only one disorganized on this.

    Grouchy – You have a very sensible pandemic plan. Because really, in the end that’s all we will end up doing anyway. If everyone is home sick, I doubt that the people who are left are going to have time to haul out the manual to see what they should do next. Obviously they’re going to just do what needs doing the most and wait for it all to blow over.

    Friar – Are you a high risk priority? Because if not, how is it possible that anyone a few miles outside the city can get the vaccine in a matter of minutes, while people in the city who really need one first had to be screened and stand in long lines and now can’t get one at all because they’ve run out? Understand, I’m not blaming you — I’m just wondering who worked this out to begin with.

    Susan – Now there’s an interesting point, because a thousand times more people are killed and maimed on our roads every day than will ever be harmed by this virus, yet no one bats an eye about getting in their SUV and driving their kids to school.

    Catherine – Thanks for the UK report. Your media seems to get bored a lot faster than ours. I see no end in sight for the media hype here. I’m sure the media hype will actually last longer than the almost-pandemic will. They’ll still be tallying the amount of facial tissues used months and maybe even years from now.

  9. @XUP

    Yup. I’m high-risk, being asthmatic.

    Almost every cold or flu I’ve had in the last 15 years ended up as bronchitis and/or pneumonia. To the point of I’ve actually passed out while coughing.

    Anyway, they had people at the front door, screening everyone to see who goes in…

    Otherwise, I think I’d have been S.O.L.

  10. The vaccines aren’t widely available in Southern California yet. And in spite of my mother’s daily warning that I need to get the shot, I figure, I never get to leave my little incubator that I call work so the odds of me getting sick are pretty low!

  11. I’m still not buying this whole “Canadian government” thing. As soon as I read “spreadsheet” I knew something was up. You guys don’t have computers. Nice try.

  12. We are waiting to get a vaccine for my Todd. Right now all of his clinics say, “At risk children first.” Makes sense.

    BUT then I hear of people in other states getting it for their whole not high risk family! I do not know what gives.

    Meanwhile, as we wait, I cannot help but wonder if maybe he will be ok without it. So far so good.

    Lifestyle change?!!??! That is for the birds!! GIMME MY MAGIC PILL!

    Ha! I kid. We have flipped our lifestyle all around. I gave platelets last week and my iron is sky high awesome! So many dark and leafy greens. I cannot wait to wear a speed skating suit someday down the line. I have always wanted to speed skate, but always feared the outfit.

    Vaccinated hockey players! Ha!

  13. When you really think about it, lots of people die from lots of different strains of flu every year. H1N1 is really no different. We have to remember that. And also, not everyone who gets it will suffer horribly or die. Some people recover quite nicely. Much ado about almost-nothing, I’ve decided. I’m not going to get the vaccine.

  14. (Psssst! Mayo, it’s a sheet of paper spread out on the table so technically it’s a spreadsheet. Shhh! Don’t give away the secret.)

    I don’t normally get a flu shot, mostly because I’m too lazy to go to a clinic or see my doctor. Seems to me the last time I got a shot, I still got some office plague later on in the season anyway so big help that was. The H1N1 hysteria is fascinating to watch — you’d swear it was the Black Death come back for us. This is not the same world, the same society that allowed the Spanish Flu Pandemic to be what it was.

  15. We have a flu assessment clinic at our Community Health Centre and we have the whole area draped in what look like sterile sheets (covering the pamphlets on the walls, the decorative quilts, the bulletin boards). And the place smells so strongly of hand sanitizer that my eyes water.
    It’s the fear that puzzles me – their chance of being killed on the four lane highway on the way to get the shot is far greater than their chance of dieing from the flu. Did you read the article in the Citizen talking about the psychology of this? That we don’t do death any more? The Hong Kong flu of the sixties came rolling through and we all got it and that was that – the only person I remember panicing was my mother.
    On the other hand, when a healthy 38 year old father of young children dies, that seems so unfair. And fosters the fear.
    Stay out of small, smelly rooms and stay well!

  16. We got 500 doses of adjudicated vaccine and called the 500 highest risk people on our rosters to come in. And, for Friar, we are open two evenings a week.

  17. I don’t know where bohunk is but the rest of the country is waiting in lines around the mile for their chance at a shot. Then, if they are not in an “at risk” group, they don’t get it.

    I live in a county with three stop lights total and one high school. Our health department was giving the shots, they are free by the way, and put the time in the paper with a note to “bring food.” I’m thinking, they want a food bank donation, but NO, they meant “bring lunch and dinner cause you’re going to need it.” I’m then thinking, do I need to bring a curtain and a port-a-potti too?????

  18. I feel like I should mention that not every where in Canada is going through what we’re going through. Newfoundland is giving the vaccine out in schools. Sault Ste. Marie has an online booking system for people. The list goes on and on.

    It seems that it’s just poor shmucks like us that live in silly places like this that have to line up for days.

    And even here! After we got the kids their shot, the local hospital called us to see if we were interested in making an appt for the kids to come get the shot.

    I feel very disappointed with our region for handling it all so poorly when it was necessary.

  19. Friar – Oh ya, I remember you mentioned that on the fainting post. (“fainting post” – that sounds like something I could use) Well, in that case, I’m glad you had an easy time getting your shot

    Mo – Even if you’re out and about the odds of getting the flu aren’t all that high. And, I would think if flu season is over in Mexico, then flu season must pretty much be over in Southern California, too, no? In which case you’re out of the woods. And yet you say the vaccine isn’t available YET. So, there was no actual panic??

    Hannah – There’s the stupidity. They’re not even thinking about ways to make sure people don’t get sick in the first place – only what to do when everyone gets infected.

    Mayopie – The freakin’ spreadsheet is ON the computer. We have software up here that does all our figurin’ and reckonin’ for us. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. I can email you a screenshot of one if you want.

    Missy – Ya some hockey players got pushed to the front of the line for vaccines so they wouldn’t get sick. Hockey is very important. Glad to hear you’re iron is so good. Now just watch out that it doesn’t get too high. That’s also trouble. I want to see pictures of you speed skating. (PS: Mayopie is very ha ha all the time. Have you read his blog? You should)

    Pinklea – I agree. Mo’s comment and my response to her are kind of along those same lines. And there certainly is a lot of ado.

    Louise – Mass hysteria is kind of what defines society today. The media manages to create hysteria over a lot of stuff and we keep falling for it – until one day they’ll cry wolf once too often and we’ll be unprepared for when the real wolf appears. Now it’s all about 2012 and how the world is going to end. Lots of kids my daughter’s age actually believe it (not just because of the movie) and are feeling really depressed about it.

    Mary – The fear is frightening. The fact that people will buy other people’s turn in line creeps me right out. I can’t wait for the deadly side-effects of the hand sanitizers to be revealed.

    Savanvleck – I think this shortage thing is making the getting of the vaccine more urgent for people. If they just had tons available at everyone’s doctor’s office I’ll bet far less people would be getting vaccinated. But because it’s “rare” and “limited” everybody NEEDS to rush out and get one.

    Alain – Well, not so many are actually dying. But the whole thing IS completely crazy.

    Sky – Thanks for the info. Interesting how other places are managing this in a much more sane way. Of course if there is a least sane way of doing something, Ottawa will find it.

  20. I got the vaccine. I have asthma so I could get it. I did because there was no one in line. I just walked in and out.

    The weird thing is, they ask that you bring your meds to prove you have a condition. I brought my inhalers and a copy of my prescription. No one asked to see anything. At all. I know of at least 3 people who borrowed people’s inhalers in order to get vaccinated. Which means many others are doing the same thing.

    What is the point of all these restrictions if there’s no checking? Why not just give the damn thing to whoever wants it – basically that’s what’s going on right now…

    And did you know you can make your own “Purell” for pennies? Here’s a recipe: (sorry, I don’t remember how to hyperlink it). You can use glycerin instead of aloe gel…

  21. XUP- Hockey is VERY important in MN too. There are TINY TINY towns here with raging hockey dynasties. No stoplight, but state champs year after year. One of The Great One’s sons went to a private high school here with a hockey focus ( MN is similar to Canada in many ways. The socialist liberals are slipping a little though, we’ll get that turned around.

  22. Why do people want to take a vaccine that was not really tested and has some questionable aspects about it just to avoid the flu? I agree there is a high risk group that the flu would be considered dangerous to them so the vaccine is something they might to risk….but if we keep avoiding getting sick how does our immune systems build up natural immunities to germs? Germs are getting BIGGER and more deadly and our immune systems are being altered by medications that in the long run may end up causing more harm than good.

    Flu vaccines, yet another something I do not believe in. I also don’t believe that people should drag their sorry asses to work when they are sick so they use their vacation time for days off for the hell of it.

  23. Thanks to the media, it really has become a hysteria. I agree with you-I think that room would have passed on some sort of cold or flu to you.

  24. Jazz- Purell is just pennies to begin with… and aloe vera gel isn’t cheap. Oh well. And ya, people whose families are nurses seem to be able to get the shot ahead of others, just like hockey players and politicians.

    Missy – Wayne Gretzky sent his kids to school in MN??

    Cedar – I SO agree with you 100%. All these vaccines they’re giving kids now for mumps and measles and chickenpox — stuff that strengthens the immune system. Stuff we all survived with very few issues. They’re already looking for mutations of H1N1 as more and more people get vaccinated. People should spend more time thinking of ways to keep their immune system strong in the first place so we won’t need shots for every virus going.

    Linda – I know, eh? I can’t imagine what people are thinking when they boast about only sleeping 3 hours a night, skipping meals, sitting in a stuffy room all day, just so they can work on pandemic plans. Ridiculous!

  25. Our co. talked about pandemic stuff back in the first round with Mexico, before it really got here. For the most part we’d work from home and only key people would have to be onsite. We make an important drug but inventory or skeleton crew would get us through for awhile.

    I was able to get the flu shot (regular, not H1N1) free at work like I do every year, though we did get them earlier in the year than usual. Here in central Indiana the media frenzy has died down, and the clinics around the city were limited to high-risk only and people stood in line for hours for the free shot. Now they are being given for free in some schools (some have had 20% absence rates so it may be a worthy effort). Basically Indiana ordered a crapload of vaccine and as soon as it arrives they give it out for free, but so far anyone who is not at risk can get it and most doctors’ offices don’t have any. As the rest of the vaccine ordered arrives, I imagine there will be a chance for everyone else.

    Given the risk of getting sick standing in line with my fellow residents, I don’t think I’d go to a community center for it, but I’d probably get it at work or my doctor if I were already there for something else. Totally agree we’d gain more ground by not eating in the McD’s drive thru every day instead!

    Tamiflu cost me about $75 through a negotiated insurance cost last year, btw.

  26. Apparently my family has caught this flu (along with half the population of my punk’s school) and it was the mildest flu I’ve ever had. We were just tired. Very slightly warm. Seemed like a good excuse to just stay home and watch movies for a few days.

    If you take measures to boost your immune system during flu season (good sleep, no refined sugar, healthy eating…) it’s not so tough. This H1N1 is just much more contagious… but otherwise no different from any other flu.

  27. Amy – Curiously, they keep telling us the vaccine is running out, which makes people rush over to the nearest clinic and then every day, there’s still some vaccine left. By the time they say there’s enough for everyone, the whole thing will have blown over.

    Christine – It does seem to affect people pretty much like that. There are just the odd rare cases where people get complications. Glad you’re all better

  28. As I also work for a quasi-government organisation, I recognise the hand-wringingly awful level of organisation apparently needed to counteract swine flu. Not only do we all have a box of government issue paper tissues on our desks, there are bottles of hand sanitiser EVERYWHERE and one poor guy is sent round the building once a day to wipe and disinfect each. and. every. door. handle. in. the. building. Take that swine flu!! I won’t fall victim to you, provided I only go into rooms immediately after that guy has been round and at no other time!

  29. Loth – why are people from the UK afraid of the letter “z”. Once upon a time Canadians used to spell stuff like organization and sanitizer with an “s”, too, but then the bullies next door kept laughing at us for writing something with an “s” and pronouncing it with a “z”, so now we use “z” too. We’re pushovers. We’ve got the cleaning going on, too, but our employer doesn’t give us free tissues – what a rip.

    Stefania – Really crazy except that every once in a while they throw in the “perfectly healthy kid dies from it” thing and we all freak out even more.