H1N1 And Social Media (There Is A Connection)

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Are you going to get the H1N1 vaccine?

There are many people who are very on-the-fence about this vaccine (well, actually, all vaccines). One of the better sources that persuaded me to get the shot (got mine today) was this: World Heath Organization: Safety of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 vaccines (hat-tip to Amber MacArthur). Without going into the medical and ethical discussion about vaccines, while waiting in line for my turn to get poked (and I don’t mean that in a Facebook kind of way), it got me thinking how connected Social Media and getting this vaccine are.

Let’s start with this: no, this will not be a Blog post about how something goes "viral."

You don’t get the vaccine for yourself, you get it for your community.

A couple of people have commented to me that they think if they got sick they would be able to endure it, and that the people they know got (or will get) the vaccine, so why bother? What most people fail to realize about this flu is that you don’t do it for yourself, you do it so that you can’t pass it on to other members of your community (like children, the elderly and those with chronic health problems). It’s great to think that you have a super-strong and healthy immune system and that if you get H1N1, you can ride it out, but what about those who you are in contact with who don’t have the same healthy track record that you have?

Social Media is not about what it can do for you, but rather what you can do for your community.

Those who really benefit from Social Media are usually those who put themselves second, and their community first. It’s not an easy thing to do, and it’s certainly not something that businesses do/think of intuitively. The idea behind the vaccine is to protect yourself (without question), but the greater good of removing the pandemic from our communities is the real goal.

Don’t forget your role when it comes to helping your community – whether we’re talking about health or Social Media.


  1. I posted this status on my Facebook page 2 weeks ago and got some very virulent responses (sorry for the pun) ” I’m getting the flu shot for my neighbours’ sake, my friends’ sake and for strangerss’ sake. Today a healthy 13 boy died in GTA; he got H1N1 from a teammate while playing hockey Sunday. I don’t want to be responsible for a 13 year old child dying. Be in third gear and get a shot.., because it’s the right thing to do.”
    The sadness is that many people confuse Google-ranking with peer reviewed clinical data.
    I mentioned you in my blog as well http://realhumanbeing.org/index.php/blog/167-who-do-you-trust#comments

  2. Congrats on getting shot, and thank you for sharing this, Mitch!
    I also tweeted my experience 2 weeks ago about standing in line and getting the vaccine myself in Toronto. I was amazed at the reaction–from my Twitter followers, that is. There had been so much negative backlash against the vaccine, having someone go through with it served to encourage others to do the same. I was able to answer questions from people who were unsure about it. Even if it hasn’t gone “viral”, the effect of word of mouth can be pretty strong.
    Some thoughts from discussions I’ve had with one of my friends who is a public health nurse:
    – this is a far more virulent type flu than we usually see come through (i.e. easier to catch it, and the effect is far worse than seasonal flues)
    – because seasonal flues are predicted so far in advance, accuracy of the vaccine from year to year may vary. With the H1N1, however, they pretty much know what flu they are targeting, so the vaccine is very accurate.
    – H1N1 really affects the lungs, and can scar them the way pneumonia does. So many of us in North America have asthma, as a society we do need to use preventative measures as much as possible.
    I think about all the great in-person meet-ups I enjoy with my various networks. I only hope people are taking good care of themselves, staying home when they are sick, and getting the vaccine to help slow down the spread of this epidemic. It would be horrible if we infected each other with more than enthusiasm and new ideas.

  3. Great post and conversation.
    I was also on the fence about getting the vaccine and came to same conclusion as you have… not for me but for my parents & niece & nephew. And yes as you correctly pointed out… the next degree / pixel out to everyone you come into contact with.
    If I am one of the rare ones who have a reaction or if it does harm my body down the road then so be it… it’s better than knowing your actions hurt another out of fear.
    You also hit the nail on the head with with your comparison to social media…. for if it is to truly live up to it’s promise, the members of the community must continue to show respect, trust, transparency and genuine caring for the customer / reader (each other). It runs under “small town rules” as I recently heard Gary Vaynerchuk speak of.
    I wish everyone a healthy flu season ( fist bump πŸ˜‰

  4. I appreciate the post and the relationship to social media with the goal of adding benefit to the greater community. I very much agree that business especially can learn something form the principles and theories behind the benefits of everyone getting vaccinated. (from whatever illness that may be)
    Regarding the flu shot example, while I understand your argument, I don’t think it would represent the main argument of those against the flu shot. I guess my limited understanding of the debate regarding the flu shot is not so much if a person can endure the flu, but if a person actually “believes” the given information of what the shot is supposed to do. I’m sure those opposed to the idea of getting a “shot” could argue that they are indeed protecting their children, family and community at large by not receiving the shot. While I’m not saying I agree with that sentiment, but I do think that, at the very least a few of the non flu shot takers (I know horrible wording) would believe they are doing and accomplishing exactly what vaccinated people believe they are accomplishing by taking the shot.
    Just my 2 cents.
    Great article and thought provoking comments.
    Thanks. πŸ™‚

  5. Hi Mitch,
    I am a social media freak and writing to you with whats left of my strength!
    I have the H1N1 flu…it is very bad…
    I wanted to get the vaccine but you see in Switzerland, they didn’t have it until November the 16th!
    They will start to give it to people at risks now and for everyone else..in December…
    The problem is…the flu is here NOW…BIG TIME
    My father who is at risk was trying to get his shoot but it is even IMPOSSIBLE to get someone one the phone since there are overwhelmed with people wanting the shot.
    Switzerland is a rich an supposedly organized country…this time they FAIlLED miserably…half of my kids school is sick and no one had a chance to get the shot!

  6. I had H1N1 a few weeks ago. (Thank you New York).
    I was on my back for a week. While in bed reading tweets I noticed a member of my local social media community started a chip-in campaign for a friend away from home with flu complications. The family needed help. The word spread quickly. Within 24 hours the community had raised over $5000. Unfortunately, the healthy 27 year old mother of a nine month old baby died. – That is was scares people.
    Another example of both viruses at work.

  7. While I appreciate where you are coming from, I disagree when it comes to the flu shot. There are groups that are considered higher risk than others, and just a blanket peer-pressure via social media for everyone to get the shot because it is “for the good of the community” can make it more difficult for those in the high risk groups to obtain the immunization.
    Not to mention, the flu shot does not mean that you can’t get the flu during that season. Just that the flu needs to mutate its strain (a trait the flu does have). We are increasing this mutation by over-immunization.
    Sorry, I’m not convinced just because the masses on Facebook and Twitter recommend it.

  8. I recently went to an E-Learning conference and a presenter brought up a good point. Social Media, at least in the working world, has become a bit of a stigma. Specifically, Social sometimes brings about images of parties and “Social Notworking”. Collaborative Media seems a much more appropriate term…I mean, that’s what it is, isn’t it?

  9. @jhoysi – well, most vaccines are with dead flu cultures, so it is unlikely this is going to cause mutation. I don’t think there is such a thing as over-immunization. It does not work the same way as bacteria and overuse of antibiotics. Having the flu does not mean immunity to catching it again but apparently the vaccines give better immunity for H1N1. Yes, just because I have the vaccine, I can still get the same strain of the flu. But, hopefully I will not be as sick.
    Making the choice to not get the vaccine for yourself is okay, just please stay away from those who are in the high risk groups if you are even mildly sick (including young, elderly and immunocompromised), and cross your fingers that you recover. My choice is to do what I can for myself to have a better chance of recovery if I do catch it.

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