Pierced for herd immunity
I wait quinze minutes
in the salle de surveillance.
That's what my doctor called it: "The Province is out to create 'herd immunity.' That's the best way to keep the virus from spreading. I'd get the shot if I were you." And so, yesterday, we did.
That's the symbol from the Quebec H1N1 info website - good logo, I thought.
In Montreal, large H1N1 immunization clinics have been set up in easy-to-get-to, well-known locations, like the Palais de Congres convention center, and recently opened up to the general public (as opposed to the high risk groups who have been being vaccinated in recent weeks.) We had to be in Westmount early yesterday morning, so we decided to try to the clinic in Place Alexis Nihon, a mall right next to the Forum, where the Canadiens used to play hockey. The clinic was on the level of the metro station that is located right beneath the building, and clear signs pointed us in the right direction. Various "rooms" had been taken over by the provincial health authorites, with a carefully-thought-out crowd-flow plan. We`d heard stories of long waits in the earlier days, but at 8:45 am the clinic had been open since 8:00, and there was no line at all.
A volunteer gave us a number with an appointment time but waved us ahead into the first area, saying with a smile that there would be no wait. This first room had two rows of computers set up on tables, maybe ten in all. The man who processed us asked for our provincial health cards, verified our addresses and birthdates, and printed out a form with several questions on it - in our case, the questions were in English. In the next area, a high counter held pencils and we filled out the five questions on the form; I said I wasn`t pregnant, didn`t have allergies to eggs, had never had a reaction to a flu shot before. We then had a brief interview with another person, who reiterated the questions, making sure we had understood - probably a good precaution in this place of so many different languages. After that we got down to business and were sent to stations for the shot itself, where friendly nurses in ordinary clothing talked to us while swabbing our arms, told us to relax the muscle as much as possible, gave the shot, and then explained our arms might be sore for a few days. Finally she printed and initialed a piece of paper that held our names, birthdates, and health ID numbers, verifying that we`d received a full dose of a particular vaccine on such-and-such a date -- ìn case you`re traveling and this is required,`she said. Then we were waved into the salle de surveillance, where the newly-vaccinated were asked to sit for fifteen minutes prior to leaving - detained by the honor system only, most of us did wait the required time.
The whole thing took no more than half an hour, and impressed me, both by its low-key, non-clinical, reassuring ambience, and by the fact that actually the province was attaining a record of every single person who had been vaccinated that could be used in an epidemiological study, if necessary. The nurse told me that school groups were being bussed into these centers during the day; ``that`s when it gets busy and more difficult,`she said, `because the little kids tend to be scared and you have to spend more time reassuring them.`` In general, though, there`s been no hysteria here at all, and I think the way the clinics have been handled has a lot to do with that. People in the higher risk groups were able to receive shots several weeks earlier, but Canadians have been assured that there is enough vaccine for everyone who wants it.
Today my arm was a bit sore, but not as much as for a tetanus shot, and I was definitely more tired than usual, but as the day has gone on I`ve felt less and less effect. Apparently immunity takes about two weeks to develop, so I`ll keep on washing my hands, which I guess I do out of habit anyway...
I`m curious how many of you have gotten a shot, and what it`s been like where you are.