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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


A completely unremarkable vaccine

As a result of all the stories about adverse reactions to the swine flu vaccine, I can’t say I approached it without apprehension. The night before it was made available free of cost to UA students under the age of 24, I told my paramedic friend that I intended to be vaccinated. Forgetting that I’m a hypochondriac, despite all the conversations in which she has had to reassure me that being a 21-year-old in perfect health does not make me vulnerable to pulmonary embolisms, she said she hoped nothing would go wrong. 

Waiting in line did little to settle my fears. As the nurses were preparing the first few needles, I heard one instruct another to make sure all of the air was out of the syringe. I remembered having heard that being injected with air kills you immediately, and I began to question whether the needles would still be sterile after being exposed to air. This is what happens when you are paranoid and lack knowledge about the workings of your object of fear.

Although it is difficult to find conclusive statistics about the risks of the swine flu vaccine, what everyone seems to be overlooking is that, as asserted by Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  “”The risk of H1N1 influenza is a lot greater than the risk of getting the vaccination.””

Dr. Frieden, who is being paid a lot of money to know what he’s talking about, has not only said that the vaccine is safe, but also that it is more dangerous not to get it. Ignoring this advice seems counterintuitive; we are the species perhaps best equipped to ensure our own survival and yet many Americans are shunning the lesser of two evils, if you could even call them that. 

College students in particular have cause for concern, as people under the age of 24 make up one of the groups most at risk to suffer complications as a result of the swine flu. The H1N1 virus is dangerous and it makes no sense for the average, healthy young adult to avoid the vaccine. It might save your life, and will potentially prevent you from having to negotiate extensions with your professors late in the semester.

Obviously, I cannot recommend the swine flu vaccine for every individual. But as someone whose parents have similarly weak immune systems and as a result, spends every third week of winter fighting off illness, I am confident it was the right decision for me. My arm was a little sore (although it’s nothing compared to the mother lode of needle-related pain that is Gardasil), but I am still walking perfectly both forwards and backwards. 

The media is always going to try and sell the most sensationalized story because it’s more interesting, which is why my completely unremarkable experience is not going to make international headlines or prompt Oprah to interview me. It was like every other vaccine I’ve ever received, which have helped me avoid nasties such as hepatitis B, the measles and polio, to name a few. I’ve even been vaccinated against smallpox, though I’ve never fully understood why it was still of concern to Yugoslavian health officials in 1988. 

The reports of those who have suffered adverse side effects shouldn’t be ignored, but many people seem to have forgotten how to exercise a bit of risk assessment. 

Personally, I think the only reason we’re still talking about a virus that, quite frankly, has been something of a non-event is because swine is a funny-sounding word. It’s hideously unglamorous and at the very least, the vaccine will prevent you from having to tell cute people that you’ve “”got the swine.””

I wouldn’t say I’m pro-vaccine, but I am anti-unnecessary-death, which was what sealed my decision to get the swine flu shot a week ago. Having already survived Australia’s uneventful “”outbreak”” of swine flu during our winter months gives me confidence that winter in the States is not going to produce a catastrophic H1N1 emergency either, but I still prefer to err on the side of caution.

Chances are that everyone you know who has been inoculated found it as unexceptional as I did, and chances are that you would, too. And if you have doubts or concerns, talk to someone more qualified than I am. They’re not called health professionals for nothing.

— Dunja Nedic is an Australian exchange student.

She can be reached at

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