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A possible title for this essay, Flu Shot Etiquette, would be a poor one. There hasn't been much etiquette displayed in health clinics and doctors' offices where H1N1, or swine flu, vaccinations are usually offered.
Patients are frustrated by delays in delivery of the vaccine. Some are angry that they're not among the two groups – children and pregnant women – given priority because they seem most susceptible to swine flu.
Some women who are not the least bit pregnant are lying and saying they are, just so they can get in line. So desperate is the search for the vaccine among men and women, both, that some are yelling and cursing – even threatening – health workers. Medical offices report employees – who themselves are highly susceptible to catching this dangerous strain of flu from patients – have been breaking into tears, even walking off the job. They say they can't take the abuse any more.
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The H1N1 vaccine has been slow to arrive due to testing and manufacturing delays. That has led to cancellations of flu-shot clinics, raising anxieties as the winter flu season nears. Worried parents, especially, are clogging clinic telephone lines, preventing sick patients seeking appointments from getting through. Vaccine shipments that do arrive go quickly, increasing the frustration among those turned away. And frustration can turn to anger when the staff tells them they have no idea when the next shipment will arrive.
To compound matters, hundreds of seasonal flu-shot clinics have been cancelled, too. The federal government has put the emphasis on speeding up delivery of the H1N1 vaccine, causing backups in the seasonal vaccine.
Add long lines to the aggravation at places where the shots are available, and temperatures are up across the land. Not from the flu. From behavior that some are calling flu rage.
Oh, there is one sort of behavior that might fall under the heading of flu etiquette. People aren't shaking hands as much these days. For instance, hockey coach Bruce Boudreau, whose Washington Capitals team had already lost a flu-ridden player for several games, was heading off to sign copies of his new autobiography. "Everybody you meet is nice and wants to shake your hand," Boudreau said. "You don't want to be rude and say no, but . . . "
Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.