The Flu Vaccine and Me



I resisted getting the flu shot as long as possible.
I have been healthy all winter while people all around me have been getting the flu. My family, my patients, my friends. I have cleaned up puke and diarrhea, taken temperatures, and obtained flu swabs for testing. Asked patients “Have you had the flu shot this season?” and encouraged them to get vaccinated if they hadn’t had the shot. I’ve even delivered ginger ale to my sick neighbors.
I haven’t even had a stomach-ache.
I have driven past pharmacies with “Get your flu shot here” flashing on their billboards.
I have smiled at the nurses I know in the local department store at booths vaccinating willing customers.
I still didn’t want the vaccine.
Truth is I avoided getting the vaccine like the plague.
 I am not an anti-vaccine zealot. In fact, I am a firm believer in almost all vaccines. I love vaccines. I find it fascinating to read about the polio vaccine, the chicken pox vaccine, and the vaccine against smallpox and measles. I find it amazing how these vaccines radically changed healthcare.
Each one of these vaccines has influenced history in dramatic ways.
For the better.
 I will never say that someone is a horrible person for not getting themselves or their children vaccinated. I may, however, question their judgment.
 I am a realist. For example, if you don’t vaccinate your kid against the whooping cough, it is you who are taking the risk. It’s not the kids that were vaccinated that are going to be at risk if whooping cough breaks out in your school district. It’s the kids who were not vaccinated. Your choice.
If everyone decided not to get vaccinated then I might have to get my soapbox about the benefits of vaccines.  But if only a few people here and there are going to avoid vaccines, then I can live with that. It won’t hurt the masses. Besides, one of those few people avoiding vaccines this year was me. It was my choice. My risk.
That was how I found myself, for several months, in the category of the non vaccinated and with no desire to be vaccinated.
I had read all of the literature on the flu vaccine.
I knew the risks and the benefits.
I knew I was in a high risk category.
I still talked myself out of getting it. I had a whole list of excuses.

“Everyone that’s testing positive for the flu has had the flu vaccine.

It didn’t do them any good.

Everyone that is getting the flu is over it in a few days anyway.

Who knows what the vaccine will do to me?

Why expose myself to that when I am perfectly healthy?”

And my personal favorite “Someone at the drug company is making a fortune from that vaccine” (which I am still not entirely convinced isn’t true)

I had a lot of good arguments.

But guess what? I have had the shot three times before.
It was those other times that were the problem. Those other times that made me come up with excuses.
Two out of those three times I got sick the day of or the week after I received the vaccine.
One time I vomited, the other time I was shaky with a fever for four days.
 I know that advocates of the vaccine say that isn’t possible. There are side effects, but it’s inactive. Weak. It can’t make you sick.
I am here to tell you that it made me sick. Worse than side effect sick.
And no, I am not allergic to eggs.
So, as the chances came around for me to get vaccinated this year, I kept declining them.
It was like I was playing dodge ball with the flu.
Would the flu get me or not? I would take my chances; take on the winter bravely, working in the healthcare field, unvaccinated.
I was going along my merry way, with no vaccine and no flu.
Then one day it happened.
The decree was made at work to either get the shot or wear a mask all season.
I wasn’t that angry. I understood.
Who knows how long the season will last?
I didn’t want to wear a mask for months. Good grief.
So I got the shot.
And I didn’t get sick.
In fact, I’m still fine.
Maybe getting sick those other years was purely coincidence.
Maybe not.
Either way I lined up like the masses, stuck my arm out there and got the shot right in the deltoid.
I had a red spot on my arm where the shot went in. I’m pretty sure my arm was sore and tingling for a few days, and I was convinced that my third toe on my left foot was numb.
Others at work who got the shot know for a fact that it was making their arm hair stand on end and that particular spot behind their right ear to itch. I think it even turned the cleaning lady’s hair green.
Me, I’m convinced that it made me hungry.
Every since I got it last week, all I have wanted to do is eat pasta and ice cream.
Maybe I will use that to convince myself next year that I don’t need the shot.
Who knows?
On the other hand, I like pasta and ice cream.
Maybe getting the shot wasn’t so bad, after all.