Toronto and the federal government are calling for a no-show at influenza vaccination clinics. Clients who stay away from today’s vaccination clinics can be fined and can have their right to a public service infringed. This week the two organizations, working with the Ontario government, unleashed a campaign using the phrase, “Is your right to free public health care being infringed?” Throughout the next two weeks you can expect to see these billboards pop up all over Toronto and easily into Hamilton, the neighbourhoods that have seen the most serious outbreaks of H1N1.
The campaign highlights the greater “unprecedented” outbreak of H1N1 on the east coast this year, which many people are concerned over given that so much of the pandemic goes unseen. The public school system has already banned students from staying home with flu-like symptoms and the Toronto Public Health Board has issued 15,766 urgent outbreaks of H1N1 to the last three days. Public health officials have stated that if the rate of H1N1 in Toronto does not come down, there will be a ban on people with nasal and throat spray vaccines, the most effective way to protect against swine flu this year.
Additionally, I received a survey through the Toronto Public Health’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account. The organization’s survey identified 94% of Canadians feel that what is being done to prevent H1N1 this year is sufficient. However, 30% of people felt a free vaccine wouldn’t be received by someone who doesn’t pay. These are the people who will be the least affected by the outbreak. If the announcement or idea of a no-show at a flu shot clinic prompts someone to want to get vaccinated, then, we might have a hard time getting everyone to do it.
We have started a hashtag for the campaign to prevent kids from dodging the vaccines. #DocsR4Vshot is a call to arms for people to pledge to get vaccinated. Toronto is home to four of the 10 most dangerous cities for swine flu in the world. The Department of Health and Wellness in Toronto knows that it has a problem and is doing all it can to prepare, and the campaign is a great way to show Toronto how it can take action to prevent H1N1 and the other Influenza A viruses by having a positive and positive mindset towards vaccination.
Toronto is one of the places that can really embrace the no-show idea, because it is known for being very generous in welcoming those who have been displaced from other areas of Canada due to natural disasters. Homeless people sometimes sleep around buildings such as a cultural centre or underground bus station, and if there is a serious flu outbreak Toronto is the city where everyone feels they should flock.
According to the Ontario government, 90% of Canadians have received their flu vaccine this year. The campaign has gotten a lot of attention as it comes as a response to this pandemic. But it goes beyond the vaccine. First and foremost, we need to eradicate and eradicate stigma around H1N1. There is no easy reason for people to stay home when they know they could get infected. It’s a disease that does kill, and people have died as a result of this season. However, if we spread the light of conversation around H1N1 more, then, people will make better choices.
A no-show in a flu shot clinic for somebody who otherwise wouldn’t have the necessary flu and flu vaccine is not some effort of harming the public or hindering public health. It’s a choice to stay home and protect your family. But if you insist on not getting your vaccine just make sure you got your vaccinations first. With that, and going back to school, it could very well be a new normal for people everywhere in the world, not just in Canada.
• Will Rosenberg is an educator, personal care specialist and artist