Who really needs H1N1 vaccine?

This new piece of the H1N1 puzzle – to vaccinate or not – does seem to be the first no-brainer we’ve been dealt, especially among all the full-brainer problems floating around with no apparent solutions. The whole business of whom to vaccinate, how to ration, whether to Be Very Afraid because the vaccine is dangerous and maybe the pandemic itself is a vast conspiracy, is becoming the stuff of legend as well as news. Also the stuff of comedy.

Unless, of course, you happen to catch the virus and turn out to be quite sick. A friend in Georgia had that experience and isn’t laughing. But she is the exception (58, otherwise healthy and unvaccinated) and recovered in less than two weeks.

Here’s what seems to be a good rule: if you’re over 65, maybe even over 55, just don’t get it. The vaccine, that is; try not to get H1N1 either; with reasonable precaution you probably won’t. If all of us in this category would quit obsessing and worrying and adopt this just-don’t-get-it policy, there will probably be quite enough to go around for those who do need it: children, pregnant women, people with cystic fibrosis, healthcare workers, etc.

The pandemic could be on its way out anyway. Although President Obama has declared H1N1 flu to be a national emergency (a good move, since it freed up hospitals to pitch triage tents in parking lots, etc, if necessary, and allows other emergency steps to be taken) some experts including Ira M. Longini Jr., an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle (quoted in the October 24 New York Times) believe the peak has about been reached. “Indeed,” writes Times reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr. in that same news summary, “cases have already started to decline in the Southeastern states, where they spiked in August when schools opened.”

The best news of the pandemic is probably the fact that it has become fodder for stand-up comics and comedy shows. Once we start laughing at things they tend to whittle themselves down to sanity. My favorite message so far came from host Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, in response to some of the craziness coming from the likes of Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. What we need, Daily suggested, is a vaccine against the vaccine, so we could have peace of mind while being vaccinated. Or while passing on the vaccine altogether.

A little peace of mind goes a long way these days.