Health & Wellness

Get Your Flu Shot!

15 Sep , 2018  

If I can do it, so can you, unless you have a valid medical reason not to.

It Won’t Give You the Flu

You literally cannot get the flu from a flu vaccine, so do not tell me how you have, in the past. That’s called “having a healthy immune response to the vaccine,” and some people do feel a bit ill while making antibodies – but it ain’t the flu. It won’t kill you. The flu vaccine (other than the kind called “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV4)” – which is that lovely nasal mist version that does not involve needles)  contains a killed version of the flu viruses it’s intended to prevent. The virus in the flu vaccine that’s injected into your arm is dead. It cannot cause the flu. Period. End of story. Do not argue this with me in the comments because it’s a stupid argument.

Sure, you can still get the flu later if you are exposed to the flu virus (or were, just before getting the vaccine). Or, if you are exposed to a flu variant that isn’t what vaccine makers gambled on being the prevalent strains in a given year. Lucky you. It happens. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry, because I know it’s adding insult to injury to get vaccinated and still get the flu. And that does happen – but it’s not from the vaccine.

Flu viruses are constantly changing so it’s not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year. For more information about how flu viruses change, visit How the Flu Virus Can Change.

—CDC Website

If you get the vaccine, and still get the flu, you will have all my sympathy and every right to bitch and moan. But it’s still no excuse not to get yourself vaccinated, this year or next.

Fear & Loathing

But back to me. See, I’m needlephobic. Not just a little, but a lot. Phobias are not rational things, so telling me how “painless” it is, or that “it’ll only take a second” isn’t helpful. Telling me not to watch is even less helpful; if I don’t watch, the needle becomes a malevolent thing of nightmare proportions. Holy crap, the needle they use is long enough, in reality – I don’t need it turning rusty, growing fangs, and sprouting a malicious personality, to boot. I can’t watch others get injections, even on TV.

Guess which scene in the movie, SAW, bothered me most?

Ironically, I have to give myself injections, now, daily, to counter early osteoporosis. My mother had severe osteoporosis, so a little daily pinprick – in the abdomen, no less – is a small price to pay in the war against that nasty ailment. Doesn’t hurt, but steeling my nerves to do it still takes about five minutes, during which I’m reduced to the mental age of five and have to give myself a lollipop. And that needle’s only about as long as my fingernail is wide, and as thick as an eyelash.

The flu vaccine needle – holy crap, how did she not hit bone?

OK, enough about me, but if I could do it… well, it helps to have a pharmacist who’s good with a needle stick, notices you’re due for one, and calls you at home to remind you after making you commit to coming back on the weekend to get it… helps to have a pharmacist who knows you, knows that look horses get when their eyes roll back, and knows you’d make up ten dead grandmothers’ funerals to get out of it, but won’t back out if you say the words, “YES, I PROMISE.”

I wish I were joking.

Public Health & God

Just go get the damned flu shot. It’s important enough to public health that most of us can get one for free. It may inconvenience you, it may hurt a little, and it may even provoke a strong immune response that makes you feel like crap for a day. Sure, it may not even protect you against that one weird strain of the virus you are unlucky enough to encounter in the wild. But if it does, it not only protects you, it protects your family; it protects people who legitimately can’t get the vaccine for medical reasons; it protects the whole community. Did you know that 675,000 people in the USA, and 50 million people worldwide died in the 1918 influenza pandemic? So go, be a hero. Get the flu shot.

Most medical professionals and parents believe there’s a good reason to subject babies to a whole bunch of vaccines from birth through college.  Assuming you’re not an anti-vaxxer, don’t tell me you’re going to weasel out of a little annual flu shot? Not on my watch. I haven’t forgotten my last bout of the flu. I remember feeling like I had a cold, about the time I got to my husband’s annual company party. By the time we left, I was burning up – so hot I couldn’t get warm and my teeth were chattering. I don’t remember getting out of the car, walking into our bedroom, or crawling into bed. I don’t remember the next three days. I woke up knowing I’d talked to God, himself. And you know what he said? I can’t tell you, because after three days, as the ability to speak coherently gradually returned to my mouth, I forgot the secret He revealed to me about how to achieve world peace in our lifetimes.*

But I’m pretty sure He whispered, as I returned to life, “Get the @#$%ing flu shot, next time, unless you want to stay here.”

I’m a believer.

* Yes, seriously. I woke up speaking gibberish, determined to spread God’s word. I thought I’d had a stroke. I was trying to tell my husband what God said, and while it sounded perfectly rational and normal in my brain, I could hear my mouth making sounds like someone speaking in tongues. As I gradually regained the ability to speak, over the next few minutes, I also forgot the “secret” that I was convinced God had revealed to me, as if I really were being prevented from sharing it for some reason. All I could remember – and it was so funny that all I could do was laugh – is that it was idiot simple. After much thought, I’m convinced it was just, “Be good to each other.” Well, God, that’s so much easier said than done, apparently.

Featured Photo Credit:

Direct Relief USA Clinics by Direct Relief

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21 Responses

  1. Alana says:

    You really have a way with words. May I add “and it won’t cause autism. Promise.” Don’t know how much we can promise, but my son will not get a flu shot because he thinks he will get autism, and, with a nearly 60 year old uncle who has autism (and it didn’t come from a vaccine, although the “origin story” is interesting) I can see some of where he is coming from, and I don’t lecture him. This year I’m eligible for the “senior” flu shot so I am hoping it doesn’t give me any side effects. I honestly thought the pneumonia shot was bad (painwise, and it gave me a sore arm for nearly two weeks), but it sure beats having pneumonia.

    • How old is your son, Alana?
      I know someone whose mom died of a peanut allergy. He now has psychosomatic “allergic reactions”even to tree nuts, which aren’t even related to peanuts. He knows it’s all in his head, but he is happy to avoid all nuts

  2. Bellybytes says:

    I am as scaredy a cat as you are about needles and salute you for your daily poke in the tum! Gosh that requires guts for sure . And I agree about vaccinations . They do mitigate symptoms and should be done regularly.
    But when I was growing up there was no flu shot ( nor MMR nor Chicken Pox ) and we got the flu and the lumps and the measles and the chicken pox and suffered no long term consequences save the boredom of staying away from school .
    Somehow I find the flu is more dangerous in cold places where people have to live in confined and closed spaces. In our hot country where we have tons of other diseases to cope with, the need to keep the windows open perhaps prevents the flu germs from infecting everyone ?
    The only people in my family who’ve had the flu shots are the ones living abroad!

  3. Nope, nada, never! I did a video on it a few years ago saying it’s a scam; and it is. The truth is that not only is it as dangerous as it might be helpful to some people, the numbers don’t support doing it.

    I’m not going to get into that part, though; I’m going to come at it from the side of hospital workers. Medicare set up a rule that says 98% of a hospital employees that possibly come in contact with patients have to get the flu shot. They can be penalized 1-2% of reimbursement if those numbers aren’t reached. Some hospitals allow some of their workers who don’t want to get it to wear masks; some don’t.

    The problem is the flu shot does affect some people negatively. Ever hear of guillain-barré syndrome? The sister of one of her friend’s got it from the flu shot in Buffalo. The problems were multiple.

    First, everyone who gets the flu shot has to sign a waver saying they’re not allowed to sue the manufacturer of the vaccine if anything happens. It’s a government form, so it’s a Catch-22; sign the form & get the shot or don’t sign the form and possibly lose your job.

    Second, because you signed the form, if you get sick your state doesn’t have to pay you disability. You could be out anywhere from six months to a year (my wife’s friend’s sister was out of work 8 months) without any income. It doesn’t qualify for worker’s compensation. Also, since it doesn’t qualify as disability or compensation, you can be terminated after six months (she was a nurse and they’re in demand so she was “lucky”).

    So, she not only had no money (her family members helped her) but she had to learn how to walk and take care of herself again; that’s why it took 8 months. The only “benefit” she got from it is that now she has a “legitimate” reason to never have to take the shot again.

    Sorry, but that’s too big a risk to take for a serum that’s only 30% effective, and if you travel it goes down to 5%. True, flu can be debilitating and potentially fatal, but the numbers you shared above aren’t close to today’s reality. In 2013, fewer than 100 people died, and most of those were children or people over 65. As a matter of fact, over 6 million people presented themselves to doctors and clinics as potentially having the flu… and less than 75,000 across the country had it. That comes to .02% nationwide; I’ll take my chances!

    • You know, one reason so few people have heard of GBS is because it is so incredibly rare. And you’re more likely to get it after certain types of illnesses, including CMV or mono.

      It’s possible, theoretically, to get polio from the (live) polio vaccine most of us had. But it’s almost unheard of, today, because we did. Unfortunately, the flu virus mutates too quickly to hope for a “cure” or virtual eradication, like with smallpox or polio.

      And, I guess it could be argued that flu deaths are population control. What would we do if disease didn’t get some of us in the end?

      Where are you getting your stats, Mitch?

      • I knew your question would be where I got the statistics from. I can’t totally tell you that since I did the video in 2014, but even the CDC shows that for the 2011-2012 season only 37 babies died from flu:

        Of course things ebb and flow, but the percentages are still relatively low. You mentioned how low the percentages are for getting GBS but people still get it, and when it’s mandatory and someone gets it their entire lives, not only their health, are uprooted and possibly changed forever.

        If the federal government didn’t give blanket immunity to the flu serum makers I might feel differently about it… but for now I don’t.

      • Mitch,

        A word of advice: the words “only 37 babies died from” should never be used in close proximity to one another when speaking to a woman who has nurtured one inside her body.

        Life’s a crapshoot. Certain things are worth the risk; that’s why my children were vaccinated, despite the risks – because it was better than contracting most of the things they were vaccinated against.

        I think that if there are effective vaccines available, people who work in healthcare, particularly if exposed to communicable diseases or are potentially exposing vulnerable patients to theirs, ought to be required to get them – or to be in private practice where they can put a sign on the door saying they didn’t and let their patients make informed decisions. I do agree with you that drug makers should never have “blanket immunity,” but immunity against GBS? Maybe. I think they should be liable for manufacturing defects and appropriate warnings – for taking all reasonable precautions to ensure that drugs are safe before putting then out there. GBS is an autoimmune disorder, and while the flu vaccine MAY trigger it, so can many other things – probably including the flu. It’s one of the reasons they advise against giving aspirin to children. And it is exceedingly rare, though debilitating. I think that if you work in a hospital and you get ill – period – ill with anything – you should have medical coverage and disability coverage, and that the ONLY thing that should be an exception is if you are criminally negligent or deliberately expose YOURSELF to some horrible disease in order to get disability payments (how likely IS that, really??) But I’m all for single payer healthcare, personally – I think we should all have that.

  4. Damyanti says:

    I’m not a flu shot fan, simply cos I’ve been ok without it, and the peeps around me who have had flu shots get the flu all the time.

    In tropical weather, other shots make sense, but not the flu 🙂

  5. I just think that here in Mumbai we take our illnesses in our stride. We get colds and coughs and dengue and malaria and flu and chicken pox and measles and we are fine with it. The illness runs its course and we are back to school or work or wherever. It is just a part of life and except for dengue (which is a bit scary, but we do hear fewer cases of dengue related deaths nowadays.) The last month we had around six kids in our building complex down with dengue. Today all of them are dancing at the Ganapati Mandal in the compound.

    • Yes, and actually contracting a virus illness, in some cases (like chicken pox) conveys live-long immunity.

      I used to wish I’d just exposed my son to someone who had chicken pox. When he was 5, he had shingles. Our doc was baffled (I diagnosed it, and he basically ruled out everything else, agreeing with me after. consulting a dermatologist down the hall. A doctor friend of mine, in Mumbai – who is correctly guessed had seen more pediatric cases – advised me to have our doctor correct the dosage of medication prescribed.) Now, when I ask how a 5 year old white never had chicken pox gets shingles, I’m told by unsympathetic doctors it’s proof the vaccine worked. Well, yeah, I guess…

  6. Pat Stoltey says:

    Great advice, Holly! I got my flu shot Wednesday…had the bad flu a couple of times when I was younger and thought I was going to die each time. Now I get the super-dose (because I’m old). 😀

    • I wasn’t old the last time I got it, but man, you know when it’s the FLU and not some other little respiratory THING going around.

      Oh, you meant the super dose of the vaccine!! I forget when that starts, but I’ll get it when the time comes. I’m assuming you’ve had the pneumonia vaccine, as well? I’ve heard it’s worse… But maybe good for for more than a year, right?

      I got both the flu and tetanus shots in the same area last year (thank God the tetanus is good for 10 years…waaaaah!) and curled up with both heating pad and ice for two days. Still better than having the flu. At least I was conscious and could whine about it.

  7. Rajlakshmi says:

    Guess what, I just got the flu shot. My arm’s a little sore but that’s about it. I am terrified of needles too and didn’t even look at the syringe so I actually don’t know how big the needle was. Yes, it’s important to get the shot for the community.

  8. Parul Thakur says:

    I got the shot a few weeks back. My arm hurt for two days but then got normal. I am not scared of needles so I take it well but yes I was in double minds about the shot. Last year, due to my food allergy and the medication I was on – I wasn’t allowed to get the shot. The year passed on peacefully and I stayed free from flu. So this year I wanted to test my immunity and did not want to get it. But then, I gave up the idea and took the shot.
    I loved reading your post. It was funny and genuine in a lovely way!

    • Risking a nasty illness is definitely not worth “testing your immunity” (if you’ve undergone allergy testing and had any reaction, isn’t that bad enough? 😂). I figure foregoing the flu shot is more like casting the virus as Clint Eastwood. I imagine it saying, “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

  9. Josh Wilner says:

    I get my shot every year. Got too many friends and relatives who are docs who recommend it to think I’m the lay person who can prove it’s a mistake.

    I generally don’t mind needles and the office pays for it so there is no reason for me not to.

  10. I feel comfortable saying “only 37 babies” in the context of what we were talking about. I figured you could take it for what it was worth.

    The overall conversation is whether it’s worth taking the flu shot in general. I say no, and the numbers bear me out. I didn’t even get into the success rate at the time, which was only 35%, or the quadrants that give different serum, which is ineffective if one travels.

    With that said, I’ll probably take the flu shot when I turn 67 unless I’m still traveling. I also think it’s worthy of having children take those shots, since they’re in close proximity to each other throughout the school day.

    I don’t come into this without any experience. I got the flu in 8th grade and was out of school for six days. Just as I recovered they shut school down because half the kids caught it. The odd thing is that it was the only time in my years there that there was a flu epidemic, and I’d heard they hadn’t had one before then.

    Just to add this, Robyn didn’t have to take a flu shot while she was in Texas because she was working at a children’s hospital, which means Medicare wasn’t involved. It’s a bit of irony if I think about it longer.

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