Federal Government

Historic Public Health Event Fighting The Flu We Don’t Call Swine

fluThe free vaccine program for the H1N1 flu–the one we don’t call swine–is being billed as the most massive public health effort in more than 50 years in the USA.

For anyone over 60 it brought back childhood memories of when we stood in line for the first polio vaccine in 1955. Fearful parents throughout America held hands with their fearful children promising the dreaded needle wouldn’t hurt and declaring it sure beat the deadly crippling polio.

Most of those polio victims have now died, following a lifetime of leg braces, wheelchairs, and heart problems in later years. President Franklin Roosevelt was probably the most famous victim. Every kid had seen someone “with braces” and the worst victims were confined to an “iron lung.” Much scarier visions than a runny nose and “flu-like symptoms.”
Even so, thousands of folks in Boise lined up at two locations in hopes their babies got one of the 2500 doses of the free vaccine. The supply was exhausted long before everyone was treated. The GUARDIAN visited the old K-Mart location at Apple and Park Center Blvd. The parking lot was jammed with cars and the line of those awaiting the vaccine snaked four times the length of the building. Some people had camped overnight, others arrived in the pre-dawn hours to get in line.

The STATESMAN had a good summary in their Saturday edition with info from the health providers.

Inside the empty store, it was a scene of well organized “stations” catering to toddlers and infants who required the dreaded needle, older children and adults who were administered the nasal vaccine. Many of the health workers were professional volunteers.
Parents and grandparents pushed strollers, wide eyed children clung to their stuffed toys and parents. Instead of the sounds of “price check register three,” the old K-Mart echoed with the sounds of crying babies who had just been stabbed with a needle by a health worker. Despite the noise, the atmosphere was one of “community” with so much compassion in the air you could almost touch it. There was also the fear of germs in the air and plenty of hand sanitizer was consumed.

While we were there not a soul mentioned politics, insurance, or money. They all just wanted to protect their loved ones. Boise PD had coppers on the scene, but the event was orderly and filled with kindness.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Can a person get sick from standing out in the cold wind getting a chill for several hours?

  2. Nice report, Guardian!

  3. I’ve heard that this flu comes back for a few years and is real bad on the last year… any experts out there that can say what to expect… will this vaccine help with next year’s strain etc.

  4. TJ (the elder)
    Oct 24, 2009, 8:23 pm

    I am so glad to be too old to care. Good luck to the young ones.

  5. A quote from Statesman online article regarding Nampa clinic which mentions Boise clinic.
    “In Boise, most people who waited in line got their vaccine, both at the former K-Mart on ParkCenter and the former Comp USA store on Milwaukee, Central District Health spokeswoman Angela Spain said. The 2,500 doses of vaccine were split between the two locations.”

    You were there Guardian…sounds like it wasn’t quite the case that “most people who waited in line got their vaccine” ?

    EDITOR NOTE–I left prior to running out, but it was reported all 1,200 doses were used by about 1:30 p.m. at the Park Center location.

  6. Flyonthewall
    Oct 24, 2009, 9:49 pm

    I will take a stab at answering your question. Flus is a virus and vaccines are usually live attenuated (that means less virulent) strains of the virus predicted to cause seasonal flu. When you get a flu shot it is a best guess coctail of the strains most likely to cause seasonal flu outbreak (local) v. the pandemic (worldwide) we are seeing with H1N1.

    The human immune systems reacts to the antigenic (protein capsule) of the vaccine or if you are unlucky the actual flu. You body goes into overdrive to produce unique antibodies that will lock up the virus. White cells in your blood will also act to knock out foreign matter in your blood stream. Think of a puzzle piece that fits in a certain location is how an antibody works. Your immune response will also trigger the fever reaction as heat kills antigenic invaders as well.

    Viruses unlike a bacterial will invade a cell and use the cells metabolic machinery to produce millions more duplicate virus capsules until the cell expells the newly prduced virus. When you are sick with the flu your body is reacting with all the immune machinery it can muster to kill the invaders. Think Space Invaders and the zapper procedure here.

    Viruses will attenuate over time as they move thru the population. Most of the time they get less virulent but occasionally they can mutate into a more virulent form.

    The folks making the vaccines are playing a guessing game as to which set of viruses will be doing to most damage in a given year. The very old and very young are the most at risk due to the condition of their respective immune systems. That is why the older you get the fewer colds you tend to have up to a point where you become old and frail. Your immune systems has more than likely seen the typical cold virus and has the memory and antibodies ready to go for most all of the cold viruses in circulation.

    Bacterial infections are susceptable to antibiotics. Virus infestions are not and you are wasting your money trying to kill off a virus with antiboitics. Not to mention creating stronger bacteria in the process. There is no such thing as a 100% kill with antibiotics. The survivors become resistant to antiboitics over time.

    This may be an oversimplification but it will suffice for discussion purposes.

  7. sam the sham
    Oct 24, 2009, 10:12 pm

    I don’t fit into any of the “at risk” groups, so I am with you TJ.
    We are sliding towards the third world faster than one expected.

  8. David Zarkin
    Oct 25, 2009, 9:47 am

    This is one of the best articles you have done lately. The swine flu vaccine is in short supply in Minnesota and I don’t know if I am considered a priority for this. Getting the regular flu vaccine wasn’t easy here as well.
    The photos are great. I remember K-Mart located near the river and I was a regular shopper. Blue light specials et al
    Sorry to hear they closed.

  9. Much Ado About Nothing
    Oct 25, 2009, 10:02 am

    Seems to me this is not only the flu we don’t call swine, it is the pandemic we don’t call HYPED!

    The great US of A has been on a stay-scared bent for at least a decade. The health industry tried as hard as they could to get us wound up about avian flu a few years ago, but it died before it was born.

    They had better luck with swine flu when it killed about 60 people in mexico (or maybe not. No one seems to what was behind that other than the fact that about 60 people died, and they also had swine flu.) Since then, swine flue seems to be involved in the deaths of about 1 person in a million. Keep in mind that these people invariable have “complicating factors”. In other words, it could well have been something else that “killed” them, but swine flu gets the blame.

    Cutting to the chase, unless you have enough wrong with you that just about anything from a hang-nail or worse will kill you, swine flu is no more problematic than regular flu. It just has a better PR campaign.

  10. I really agree with you Much Ado. Just seems like we are getting a serious ration of something. Kind of like the balloon boy episode. Much hype, not much reality.

  11. Follow the Money
    Oct 26, 2009, 7:20 pm

    once again, its all about the profits. Shame on Obama for declaring a state of emergency. I am highly disappointed in him – I am smelling a very big sell out to the pharma companies.

  12. Clippityclop
    Oct 27, 2009, 1:51 pm

    I guess if you were one of the young patients on a ventilator in the ICU this week at Al’s or Luke’s, you’d have a different outlook on the potential seriousness of this illness.

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