Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Left My iPhone in Philadelphia*

I found myself standing in the rain in front of Union Station thinking to myself

What kind of moron leaves her iPhone on the seat of the van?

Of course the answer is THIS kind of moron. I remembered my backpack. I remembered the Nikon D90 that I am borrowing. I remembered my purse. I remembered to bring my laptop bag. And I forgot my iPhone. My security blanket. I don’t leave home without it. I don’t go to the mailbox without it. It is my phone, my watch, my address book, my memo pad, my book, my iPod. It is the non-human love of my life.

More importantly, why was I in Philadelphia?

I went up with a few other parenting bloggers. We were invited by GlaxoSmithKline** to tour their vaccine packaging facility. I know that sounds strange, and I guess it sort of is. The thing is that big pharmaceutical companies tend to have reputations for being money grubbing soulless conglomerates just out to make a buck off of the misfortunes of others. I think that they wanted us to know that at least when it comes to vaccines it is more often about saving lives or stopping pandemics.

I don't think I've ever told you where I stand on vaccinating my children.

(screws off the lid on brand new extra large can of worms)

I give my kids whatever the pediatrician tells me to except for the flu shot.

This is the part where karma turns around and runs to my house with H1N1. I am certain of it.

I will tell you why. I think immunizations save lives. I have very close friends who believe that their children have autism because of vaccinations, but I am convinced that it is a risk worth taking. People died from Polio. People died from Rubella. My children won't.

I will also tell you why I don't like the flu shot. I talk to people who get the flu shot and then they get sick. It seems like a no-brainer. Plus one of my neighbors had very, very, very, very, very, very bad reaction to a flu shot. I understand that he was the .1% but it still scared the bejesus out of me.

I went not having any idea what to expect.

There were some presentations. Dr. Len Friedland talked about the vaccines that he had worked on and Isabelle Claxton (the head of public policy & advocacy for the GlaxoSmithKline Vaccine Division) gave a presentation about public policy and advocacy. That part was interesting. These people are really smart and passionate about what they do.

Next we toured the actual facility. We had to wear safety goggles and hair covers and shoe covers and everything. They wouldn't let us take our cameras in or believe you me right now you would be looking at something more interesting than this picture that we took outside.


The tour was fine. The machinery was impressive and the whole place was shockingly clean (I guess it has to be, but I've never seen such immaculate garbage bins in my life.) but one part moved me.

We were watching the line and hundreds of vaccines were being put into hundreds of boxes. Really, just like any automated packaging line (but cleaner) and Dr. Friedland got really close to the glass to see what exactly was being packaged. He stepped back with a strange look on his face and a tear in his eye and said "That is my vaccine".

Dr. Friedland was one of the doctors that developed the product we were looking at and it was going to save lives. They couldn't say too much but I was under the impression that it was something that they had worked very hard on recently. They needed to get it pushed out faster.

For the pandemic.

This isn't like me turning in an article ahead of deadline or writing a particularly good Top Chef recap. This was bigger than that. These people were doing something important for humanity.

The trip was cool. I feel like I got to meet some really fascinating people, I got to get to know some new blogging friends and I got to see some of my older blogging friends. I really just wish I was smart enough to check to make sure my cell phone was in my pocket before I got out of the van.

I am still not going to run out and get the flu shot, but I certainly have a kinder, gentler, more human impression of large drug companies.

But I think I am going to go get my tetanus shot booster. Some of the slides they showed us had pictures.



* To be sung to the tune of “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo”

** Our train tickets, hotel rooms and meals were paid for by GSK. We received no other compensation. We were also under no obligation whatsoever to write about the trip.


Patois said...

Glad you let those worms out all over this post.

Anonymous said...

I got my first flu shot in 1999. One month later, I was on a retreat where the entire group (12-15 people) came down with the stomach-flu over the course of three days. Except me. I've been sold ever since.

TwoBusy said...

"I give my kids whatever the pediatrician tells me to."

Right there with you. That doesn't mean I don't ask questions, but I also believe in science -- and the hoops that drugs and/or vaccinations have to jump through to prove they work before they go to market are pretty fucking extensive. I'm not one to blindly believe in the goodwill and perfection of biopharma, but if the efficacy studies are there to provide a solid rationale... I'll trust science and the informed opinion of an MD - whose job it is to know this stuff inside and out - over my gut, thanks.

Including the flu shot.

nonlineargirl said...

Chris and I have been preparing Ada for the flu shot she's going to get. With the twins under 6 months, I want the rest of us to not get sick. Us sick is one thing, but them sick with flu sounds horrid for all of us.

I vaccinate my kids too. I tortured a friend who came with us to the babies' doctor appointment last month. She has NEVER been vaccinated for anything (hippie parents) and held Mira while the nurse gave shots. I think Juniper almost cried louder than Mira.

Mom101 said...

Quietly raising hand here to agree - I trust my peds with the health and welfare of my children. Or I wouldn't be with them. And so, we vaccinate.

Rebecca said...

You can be careful, you careless and you can be somewhere in between.

Like you, I believe in vaccinations, but I also think you shouldnt keep kids in a Tyvek bubble. My son gets dirty, tastes sticks and eats cherry tomatoes directly from the plants. At my parents garden, he sat down in front of the greenbeans and started stuffing his mouth and pockets.

We vaccinated according to the pediatrician too.

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