The Flu Shot Factor

This year I got my first flu shot ever.  I hadn’t really thought about doing it before this year, because in the past — admittedly, probably about 10 years ago, or maybe more — I’d read somewhere that flu shots were in short supply and really should be reserved for the very young and the elderly.  So I’d forget about it, go through the flu season without a problem, and sympathize with those folks who were suffering through the flu, which always sounded pretty bad.

qjpgvmypc7pycbp7xu9cp8This year, though, the flu shot factor was seemingly inescapable.  First Kish brought it up and said I should get one, and I always heed her counsel.  Then the Red Sox Fan, no doubt in coordination with Kish, started bombarding me with news articles and opinion pieces saying that unless everyone got a flu shot, the flu shots wouldn’t be as effective in preventing the spread of the condition.  The Red Sox Fan knew that the “civic obligation” card hadn’t been played before and was likely to have some resonance with a presumably responsible member of the community.

And finally, when I went to the doctor for a check-up recently, he said I should get a flu shot.  “Shouldn’t those be reserved for the very young and the elderly?” I asked earnestly, hoping to be relieved of the civic obligation guilt.  He looked at me doubtfully in response, no doubt wondering by what definition I was not falling into the “elderly” category, then said:  “Don’t worry, we’ve got enough.”  He also added, reassuringly, that this year’s flu shot is based on a dead virus, rather than a live one, and therefore is safer.  With the unanimous agreement of Kish, my doctor, and the Red Sox Fan, and to address the crushing sense of civic obligation, the choice was inescapable.  I told the doctor I was fine with getting one, he promptly darted out of the room and summoned his nurse, who came immediately to give me a shot in the shoulder before I could change my mind.  The whole process was over before I knew it.

So, I’ve gotten a flu shot, and I’m happy to report that so far I’ve not gotten the flu.  I’ve also been looking at the news to see whether a flu epidemic has been sweeping the nation, and while I’ve seen some indications that the flu has been nasty here and there, it looks like so far Columbus has escaped the worst of it.  I’m feeling pretty good about my decision and the help I’ve given to my fellow citizens in Ohio’s capital city.

There’s no need to thank me, really.

The Flu Shot Factor

Today at lunch the Bus Riding Conservative announced that he had received his flu shot.  It made me realize I’ve never had one.

Even during the years when you hear the direst predictions about virulent flu strains sweeping the nation and knocking people down for weeks, I refrain from getting a flu shot.  I’m not sure why, exactly.  I’m not afraid of needles, nor am I one of those people who is opposed to immunization on the basis of some obscure religious belief or sense of social consciousness.  I’ve received all my vaccinations and am happy to obtain booster shots when the doctor instructs.

They didn’t have flu shots when I was a kid, so I never got used to having them.  And when I first heard about them as an adult, there always seemed to be issues about shortages.  The news stories would say that the flu shots really should be reserved for young kids and seniors, and I was neither.  I figured I would leave the shots for the people who really needed them, and that mindset still lurks — even though I’ve moved a lot closer to the senior citizens category over the years.

I’ve never really had a problem with the flu, so I don’t have any awful experience that would motivate me to change my approach.  (This probably means, of course, that this year will be the year.)  And there are studies that raise questions about the effectiveness of flu shots from year to year.  If there’s a chance that a flu shot is just going to make me feel bad, and isn’t going to provide much assurance that I’m not going to get the flu anyway, why worry about it?

So this year, I’ll leave the flu shots to the seniors, the kids, and the BRC.  We’ll see if I make it through flu season flu-free.

Much Ado About The Flu

There’s a flu epidemic of sorts sweeping the nation.  It’s caused people to be hospitalized, it’s being held responsible for the deaths of some children, and it’s apparently not even reached its peak.

If you’ve talked to anyone who’s had the flu this year, it sounds awful.  I mean, really awful.  This is no mild strain.  People have been knocked down for days and left weak as kittens by the virus.  They have high fevers, they’re unable to keep food down, and their body aches.  They’ll tell anyone who hasn’t been felled by the flu to get a flu shot . . . in fact, they’ll tell you to do just about anything to avoid getting this strain of the flu.

I’ve never had a flu shot.  Usually the shots are in short supply, and I’ve always thought that able-bodied people should leave the vaccines for the elderly, people with impaired immune systems, and children, who really need it most.  (Of course, now that I’m 55, the AARP, which keeps sending me membership materials, apparently thinks I’ve reached the ranks of the elderly, so maybe I should change my self-image — but that’s an issue for another day.)

The horror stories I’ve heard about the flu this year are making me think about getting my first-ever flu shot.  I’ve always wondered, though, about their value.  I’ve never had a real problem with the flu.  Are some people more susceptible to it than others, and if I get a flu shot, might that make me more susceptible in the future?  There also are nagging questions about whether the flu shots really work — although the medical experts always explain the instances where people who’ve had a flu shot and still get the flu as situations where the victim was exposed before they got the shot.  With all of the traveling I’ve been doing, sitting on airplanes with complete strangers, isn’t it likely I’ve already been exposed?

When it comes to getting shots and taking drugs, I’m of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school.  It may be foolish, but I’m inclined not to get the flu shot this year.