Friday, October 30, 2009

Du calme, people!

As usual, the media has done its best to turn a complex social and medical phenomenon into a totoal clusterfuck. The general stupidity of the population hasn't helped.

I'm not going to go into any of this too deeply as it is such a mess. I just want to make two points:

1) it is a massive undertaking to attempt to distribute shots to an entire population in a short period time at the same time as the disease itself is still spreading


2) individuals need to follow the rules more than ever during times like these.

1. This is a hard job

For the first point, I am hearing lots of easy criticism from the public, the media (indirect, as usual, under the guise of "objectivity") and of course from politicians. I have no experience organizing anything of this scale or dealing with public health, but I have done planned and run events for several thousand people lasting from an evening to several weeks. These events involved a lot of logistics. It is a ton of very hard and detailed work. It is extremely difficult to get people to read a single sentence that explains what they are supposed to be doing even when they want to be doing it.

Take a moment to think about what has to go into this vaccination roll-out. The staffing has to be organized (where do we get the people from, who replaces them, how do they get paid, who goes where, etc.), the vaccines have to be distributed to the right locations (quantities need to be determined for each location, contracts made up with appropriately trained and supplied delivery companies, appropriate storage facilities must be one site), communications must be sent to the public (a ton of work, with many levels of approval).

It amazes me how so many people in our society are utterly ignorant of the work that goes into organizing something. One would think that considering we are evolving into a "service-oriented" economy that most people would be involved in this kind of organization at some level and thus have some awareness. Sadly, it is the opposite. In my own job, I encounter situations constantly where people just imagine that crucial elements of their work will just magically appear before them. This appears to be even worse at the broad social level where people just assume the government will magically have these super-efficient, highly-staffed, clearly-communicated vaccination centers up and running the day after the vaccination is announced.

We're in realtime here people. The government only decided to buy the virus last week. Can you imagine how the various departments are scrambling right now to get this thing working? Regular readers and those who know me will no I am no fan of government inefficiency and I'm sure there is a ton of unnecessary paperwork and annoying middle-managers, but we need to recognize that this is a huge and complex task. Let's give the government a break for a little while and let them do their job. After it is over, we can than look at what could have been handled better.

2. Let's follow the rules

We must recognize that this is a collective problem. Everybody is involved. Your need has been categorized and rightly or wrongly, you have to accept that categorization. This is not the time to be selfish. Thinking your need is greater than anybody else's only results in worse service for everybody. Wait your turn. Get in line and suck it up. Nobody else is getting more privilege than you are.

Look, I understand it is frightening to be a parent in this age, where you are being hit left and right by the baseball bat of fear (thanks again, supposedly objective media). But rushing out to the emergency room because your child has the sniffles is only making the problem worse. Jumping the queue to get the shot when it's not your turn only means that one person who may actually be more vulnerable than you doesn't get their shot that day.

There are cases where the rules are stupid or designed to favour the privileged. In such cases, I am not necessarily against breaking the rules. But this is not one of those cases. We are all in the same boat and if you start rocking it, you are going to make it tip over and others will suffer.

So be wise. Be informed. Remain calm. Take the best care of yourself as possible. Line up on the appropriate day. Bring a book or your iPod (or your phone, if you must) and be prepared to wait. Try to remain patient and upbeat. It will be a more positive experience for you in the long run and you'll make the lives of all the extremely busy health care workers that much easier.

Finally, a note on general health:

What has been completely dropped from the conversation is our own responsibility as individuals to ourselves and to society to stay healthy. Now is a great opportunity to remember to live a healthy lifestyle. Ensure that you get enough rest. Eat healthily (lots of fruits and vegetables to boost your immune system) and get some exercise. Especially get outdoors to get some fresh air and relax your mind. It is especially important to reduce stress, as that is what makes you the most vulnerable. So relax, don't push yourself, take a break and try not to get hung up on the little things. Leave work on time and enjoy life! Hell, you may be dead by the end of the year with swine flu, so you might as well!

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