Nov 24 2009

Easy vaccines (if you’re in the know)

by at 10:27 pm

Seth and I both got H1N1 vaccines.  Easily.  One reason I am happy to be living in Switzerland at the moment.

I get all flu shots available to me as a matter of course because I have asthma and like preventing as many sicknesses as I can.  Last year, I couldn’t figure out where to get a seasonal flu vaccine, so I went all the way to the University of Geneva Hospital for a 25 chf shot.  This year, having become familiar with CHUV (hospital) / PMU (patient medical clinics) of the University of Lausanne, it was far easier.  The first step was knowing that a walk-in flu vaccine clinic existed at the PMU, which I discovered by being in the PMU anyway and noticing signs.  Next, having gotten the requisite forms for my insurance coverage from my primary care doctor at the PMU, I walked over to the vaccine clinic, which was set up in a little white tent in an indoor courtyard, following signs with carefully marked directions, took a number, and had a seasonal flu shot covered by my insurance in no time.  The nurse was friendly, placed me in a comfy chair, and had expert injection-giving fingers.

However, this year, as we all know, brings an extra menace.  I had been anxiously asking my doctor about how I was going to get an H1N1 vaccine.  No one thought it was going to be a problem, but she said I should call in November to figure out the process.  I was worrying about it a lot, wondering how I was going to get on the high-risk list, because I know how rationed this vaccine is in the US.  However, I had little to fear.  There are more than enough H1N1 vaccines in Switzerland, they are using adjuvants to spread the wealth around, and they are exporting the extras to developing countries.  Plus they are running an excellent information campaign; just look at this incredible web site ( translated into 12 languages!)

Last week, when I was in the PMU, I saw signs for a walk-in H1N1 clinic, which pointed me to the same white tent with the other flu vaccinations.  The nurse recognized me.  I took a number, filled out a form to say that I knew that all the risks for this vaccine are not yet known, and within 10 minutes, I had a vaccine shot into my arm.  It was less painful than the seasonal shot, both during and after.  While I was briefly waiting, a journalist came and interviewed me.  That was exciting.  Also, this shot was totally FREE; my insurance didn’t have to cover it.

Unfortunately, there is no information on the PMU web site on their flu vaccine clinic, which is why I didn’t find out about it last year (so odd considering the incredibly efficient way in which everything else surrounding the vaccine has been set up). The clinic is now open to the general population, not just high-risk individuals.  If you live in the Lausanne region, take a half hour and get yourself over there (or elsewhere in Vaud) for a free (for the time being) H1N1 shot (and why not a seasonal flu shot while you’re at it?) and do your part to prevent an epidemic in Switzerland, whether are not you are personally in good health.  Seriously, there are major concerns that this whole campaign is just falling on deaf ears and on Nov 20 it was reported that the number of cases tripled in Switzerland in one week!  Just walk into the PMU entrance and follow the signs.   They’re open 8 am to 8 pm Monday to Friday (yeah, I know, LATE for Switzerland, so you can go after work!).  Now you know.

Seth adds: I went to the walk-in H1N1 clinic today, waited no more than 10 minutes, filled out the same form as Jackie, and got the vaccine. Totally free, available to everyone. I also just found at EPFL is also hosting a free vaccine clinic this Thursday, 26th November. (Just one day? I guess they don’t expect all ~10,000 students, staff, and faculty to show up.)

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