The pressure to receive the vaccine for the dreaded Swine Flu has reached a peak in my professional life. So far, I’ve been the subject of an email blitz, posters of a sick fictitious office worker lamenting her decision to decline the flu vaccine on the door of the men’s room, an online survey in which I had to declare whether or not I intended to receive the vaccine, and today questioning by phone of whether or not I intended to receive the vaccine.
For crying out loud!
See, the issue is that, having worked in health care for nearly a decade, I’ve always had the flu vaccine available to me at no cost. I always took advantage of that, seeing it as a sort of fringe benefit. For several years, I developed an upper respiratory infection. This always seemed to strike right around Christmastime, but it happened every winter reliably; one of the reasons I hated winter. I had grown accustomed to dealing with this.
One year, the flu vaccine shipped late, and the flu season was well underway by the time it was available. Not seeing the point of receiving the vaccine that late in the game, I skipped it. I didn’t have a respiratory infection that year. I’ve never taken the flu vaccine since. I’ve never suffered the infection since. Coincidence? I’m thinking not.
The Swine Flu has certainly wreaked its havoc, but, as best I can tell, more people die each year from other strains of the flu as have died from the Swine Flu. Really, this is the flu! We’ve been dealing with this for centuries, and we choose to get excited about it now?
Surely this has nothing to do with the shock-value media that we like to call journalism in America, does it? Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I’m curious about how excited everyone would be about the Swine Flu if the media hadn’t made such a huge production of images such as people walking around with breathing masks on (which experts will tell you are not effective for protecting healthy people), and sensationalizing reports of fatalities from this specific strain of the flu without drawing comparison to other strains of the flu.
Sort of like how I wonder if the economic recession we’ve recently suffered would have been as severe if the media hadn’t all but initiated a panic about the situation for the world to see. I’m sure that had a great impact on their ratings, but perhaps not so much on our economic, not to mention psychological, well-being.
During my brief venture into journalism, I learned that reporting is to be fair and objective, focusing on the facts, presenting the information for the reader/viewer to decide. Placing the writer’s perspective into the story was to be reserved for Op-Ed pieces. I wonder what’s happened to that? I wonder how much our thoughts are controlled by the media we trust to bring us the information from our neighborhoods and the world? I wonder how much of the news is conveniently spun for the advantage of those trusted media outlets at times? At the end of the day, I wonder if we’ve misplaced our trust?
As for the flu season, I’m not going to be pressured into taking a vaccine. I recognize that all flu can be dangerous, and I’m going to deal with that danger the same way I have for years: watching my diet, washing my hands, living a healthy lifestyle. I’m not going to wear a mask. And I think everything will be just fine.