Since last April, a big part of my job has been reading, researching, and writing about H1N1 influenza. Many friends, family members, and colleagues were aware of this and came to me for information about the virus, and then, in the fall, about the H1N1 vaccine.
I’ll admit that I was skeptical about the vaccine at first; however, I made the decision to follow the recommendations of the CDC and get vaccinated. I called my doctor’s office….”No vaccine in yet”. This was the response for several weeks. In the meantime, my children got vaccinated at school (seasonal and H1N1) and my husband got both vaccines at work (he’s a respiratory therapist). We also all got....THE FLU! H1N1? Maybe.
So, here it is, January 20th, and still no vaccine for me. I contemplated skipping both my seasonal and the H1N1 vaccines this year since we are so far into flu season already. Then last week, in an open letter to the American people, the CDC reminded me (and the rest of Americans) that flu season traditionally lasts until May. In that same letter, I also learned that there are currently over 110 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine available. Great – I thought – I’ll do it! I called my primary care office to make appointments for the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines but wasn’t able to schedule them because while they do have the vaccines, they don’t have enough staff to administer them. I was instructed to call back next week.
This got me thinking... While it is great that we educate and encourage people to get vaccinated, how can we make it easier for them to do so? One colleague recently needed several vaccinations as well as a titer drawn for varicella before some upcoming travel abroad. Luckily she was able to get all of her needs met at occupational health where she works. While I am happy my colleague could get her needs met in a timely fashion, in one appointment, in a convenient setting, would this be as easy for a layperson? My husband got both his vaccines at work, during his shift – great for him, but how about the patients he cares for who have to wait for appointments and may have to schedule multiple visits to get their needs met?
While it is great that we educate our patients and the public about staying healthy, how can we improve the system?