Officials: Too Many Skipping Swine Flu Shot

By: Liam Martin Email
By: Liam Martin Email

LANSING -- "And you can see that's the number of swine flu cases," says Robin Roach, director of Infection Control at Sparrow Hospital.

She's looking at a chart of illnesses in mid-Michigan -- there's a spike where the incidence of H1N1 is logged. And Roach says there's no doubt about it: Swine flu is upon us, and mid-Michiganders -- lots of them -- are getting sick.

"It is one of our major concerns: Handling the patients who are coming ill to us," Roach says.

Sparrow is fielding about 20 H1N1 patients every day -- enough for officials there to implement the so-called "Surge Plan": The hospital's protocol when too many people flood its emergency room.

"We've had to activate that several times this fall," Roach confirms.

It's curious, then, that many here in mid-Michigan are foregoing the swine flu vaccine. Officials here at the Ingham County Health Department have held a series of vaccination clinics. And they say turnout hasn't been as high as they'd like.

"We'd like to vaccinate more," says Dr. Dean Sienko, director of the department. "We have these mass vaccination clinics. I'd like to see us busy from the time we open the clinic until the time we close."

But that hasn't been the case -- and the question, of course, is why folks are skipping the shot. Word from local health officials is, many are still concerned the vaccine will make them sick.

"People think they get the flu from the flu shot, but that's not biologically possible," Roach says.

Or they're convinced H1N1 isn't much more serious than the common flu.

"It's not just the flu," Sienko stresses. "This can be a very serious illness, particularly with young children, pregnant women and others who are in the priority groups."

Bottom line, officials say, people who wait are playing a dangerous game.


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