To Flu Shot Or Not To Flu Shot – THAT is the Question

I go through this. Every. Single. Year.

To the point that my friends start hiding from me and won’t return my phone calls from October to January. This year, advertisements for the flu shots started popping up in August. I recognized my friend’s weary glances right away.

But you, dear readers, have never been exposed to my paranoia around this time of year. You are a fresh new audience.

Welcome.

First, let’s say I am cautious about vaccines. I get them. I have my children get them. But we spread them out. Way out. During my children’s first years of life, we were in the doctor’s office about every other month just getting vaccines. I appreciate the value of a vaccines but I don’t want to overwhelm a body’s delicate system.

There are some vaccines I skip. When the chicken pox vaccine first came out I let my daughter get those delightful, itchy spots the good old-fashioned way. But my boys? Too many people were getting the vaccine by then. I was risking that without the vaccine they may contract chicken pox in adulthood when it is far more dangerous. So they received the chicken pox vaccine.

Then comes H1N1. Oh. My. God. I had no friends during that time. Not during flu season, anyway. I bored them ad nauseum with facts. I deliberated. I asked strangers on the street what they thought.

Last year, my kids each got the first dose of the vaccine and then #1son had a horrible reaction. Or, so we thought. (Later, the CDC – or whatever lab they sent the results to – deemed that it was a coincidental reaction to something unknown) The kids never received the subsequent doses and we were fine last season.

Except for last year, we never get the vaccine. We’re a typical, healthy family who enjoy the typical amount of colds each season. I’d venture to say a little less than the typical amount.

But every single year I worry that I’ve made the wrong decision.

My husband, who practices Chinese Medicine, is absolutely no help at all. Chinese Medicine believes in letting the body build its own immunities. When we first had kids, he was adamantly against any vaccine. I was adamantly for. We battled. It came to such a head that I planned on sneaking the kids to the doctor and never telling him. Luckily, we came to an agreement we both could live with after a wonderful talk with our amazing Western Medicine pediatrician who values my husband’s expertise.

But during flu season? He’s no help. He laughs at me whenever I ask a question, reminding me of what he thinks of the flu shot industry. Every time we pass a sign advertising flu shots (at a drug store, grocery store, the library, in the airport – God, they’re everywhere!) he gives me a sideways glance, just waiting for my barrage of questions.

In an advertisement for flu shots on the radio this morning they reminded all of us fearful listeners out there that the CDC has recommended that everyone should receive the flu shot this season.

Everyone.

Is this advertising? Is this a twist of a study just to create fear and make money for the store/pharmaceutical companies? Or should every typically healthy person out there get the flu shot?

I hate this time of year.

Hate it.

And I know what I’ll do. I’ll choose to skip the vaccine for all of us. And then sit on pins and needles until spring, worrying that I made the wrong decision.

Sigh.

So I’ll just take this opportunity to say goodbye to all my dear friends here in the real world. See you next spring.

Blog friends?

Anyone?

Will you keep me company until then?

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33 Comments

Filed under All In A Day's Work, children, Moms, Motherhood, parenting, Ponderings

33 responses to “To Flu Shot Or Not To Flu Shot – THAT is the Question

  1. I swing back and forth about whether to have it or not, too. I think I get the seasonal flu shot about half the time (or every other year). My kids have never had one (except for the H1N1 shot last year). Not sure what I’ll decide for this year. Thanks for making me think about it!

  2. I remember being appalled when I found out my partner had NEVER been vaccinated. Against anything. I thought it was totally irresponsible of the parents. Now I just trust on statistics – what’s the odds of dying if I would get said disease? And as far as I’m aware, with the access to medical care I have, these odds are pretty low for seasonal flu etc. In addition, these vaccines contain a limited set of viruses, based on WHO predictions, which are still, well, predictions (disclaimer: I have no clue where I got this info. might be school. might be internet. might be wrong.). I’ve known more than one person who got their shot and still got the flu – be it another strain than they were vaccinated against. So I don’t bother. Not really. So I’d say relax… you might develop high blood pressure from worrying too much ;).

  3. Well if it helps to know what goes on elsewhere – here in the UK flu shots are generally only pushed as an option to the elderly or those with a pre-existing condition which might cause complications in the event of getting flu. (Although it’s worth saying that flu jabs are available to *anyone* who wants to pay for them).

    As someone in the latter group, I’ve been offered it again this year but as is my norm will not be going down that road. Like you, I don’t like pumping the body with stuff that might be unnecessary. My reasoning is that having a flu jab will not necessarily stop you from getting flu – symptoms will just be milder, but even that presupposes that they have gauged the right mix for this year. The vaccination is tailored to what they *think* might hit the population this year. If their guess isn’t right, you’re going to get it regardless.

  4. I know! We go in for ours Monday and it’s always a hassle and a decision I hate making, too. But there’s ice cream afterwards, which makes it all better, right?

  5. See you in January! hahaha! It’s a tough call, but you’ll make the right one.
    Sunshine xx

  6. Rose

    I feel the same way about vaccines. As a special education teacher they freaked me out enough in college and my son didn’t get vaccines until I got paperwork telling me what was in them. We followed the schedule once he was a bit older and bigger and his fabulous pediatrician put my mind to ease. However, last year I had a full new debate. At 3, my son had never had a flu shot. He struggles with upper respiratory infections and a pediatrician in the office (not his) recommended it. He was sicker than he had ever been in his life. I’m pretty sure we’ll never do that again. Maybe it was coincidence, but I can’t afford to miss that much work again. We will see what happens, I suppose. Don’t get me started on that H1N1 vaccine though, pretty sure everyone I know got tired of my response to that one last year…

    • christy

      Hi Rose, Does that mean you will or will not be giving your 3 yr old the shot? I’m struggling with a similar situation. thanks.

  7. tfostersingletary

    I never know what to do, either. Mostly, I hem and haw until it’s spring, then say, “Oh, I guess I never made a decision, huh?” The Hubby wants the children to get it, and I’ll probably just put it on him to get it done; that means that it may or may not actually happen. Added to my worry and indecision is that fact that The Babydoll got the mumps this year–and she did have that vaccine. What to do? What to do?

  8. Hi Jane:

    We all got the H1N1 last year…Jim is in the high-risk group as a Type 1 diabetic/asthmatic, and my elderly father lives with us…I felt it would be irresponsible not to get it and possibly risk exposing friends and family members to a dangerous illness (a young man in our community died of H1N1).

    My oldest daughter on the other hand, chose not to have herself, her man, or my baby granddaughter vaccinated…I was not a happy camper!

    I would rather err on the side of caution…

    Wendy

  9. I’m the same way, Jane! I can not discuss this enough. I have never gotten the flu shot for myself or my kids…until this year. My doctor was literally not going to let me leave my annual physical without it. (Well, maybe if I had pushed a little harder, but she had that “Oh, no you don’t” LOOK, you know?) Now, I’m vaccinated, but not my kids. And, so the debate goes on. How can I get the shot and not them?

  10. Mel

    Jane! I feel your pain. I obsess over this every year, whether the vaccine is worth getting. I obsess over germs everywhere from Fall to Spring, using hand wipes to excess when in public and I panic if I forget after using that pen at the grocery store, or the door handle at school. Yikes. I live in germ fear. In my defense, I worked in a microbiology lab for a few years, so I know germs and viruses and e coli, oh my.
    I worry that the vaccine won’t be the right blend for the current mutation of the virus, I worry that the vaccine itself will make the kids sick, I worry that if I get swine flu again this year I will lose my mind – the struggle to recover from this crap gets harder every year for me. It’s hard to find good data and assess the risk.
    However, I feel the same anxiety about every Rhinovirus or common cold we catch. They linger forever, one of us always ends up with a secondary infection, usually ear or sinus, and my daughter has that viral induced asthma that leaves her struggling to breathe and sucking on inhalers at least once each year. But there’s no vaccine for those, and here we are. Hubs and I survived swine flu last year, and did not get vaccines, and it was awful, but here we are.
    What to do, what to do. This year, hubs and I are just not feeling up to fighting another preventable infection so we’re getting them. The kids, I’m not sure, and I’m calling the pediatrician to find out which way the wind is blowing.
    Don’t even get me started on the shingles vaccine – I am fretting about that one now and would already have gotten it, but its very expensive.
    Lastly, I neurotically track google flu trends, the CDC and local outbreak reports, and am a nutjob factfinding obsessaholic about this every year. You are not alone. I try to calm myself with the knowledge that all this is a crap shoot – staying well, staying away from the germs, getting or not getting the vaccine. So, stay well, my fellow obsessive friend, no matter what you decide, and keep washing those hands!

  11. My children are grown and so I don’t have the concern. However, we never got flu shots over the years and everyone was fine except for the usual colds. I got one this year a few weeks ago ONLY because while I was on a routine doctor’s visit, he offered it for free. Otherwise, I have never made a point of getting one.

  12. Well, Jane, you’re not one for shying from the controversial topics, are you? ;) LOL.

    I think you have to do what’s right for your body. The flu shot is NOT for everyone. Don’t let any doctor/pharmacist/nurse/teacher/homeless person tell you any differently. Once you know your own body and how it will react, then you know what to do. Here’s a for instance: my husband is adamant about getting the flu shot. When he does, he’s okay. If he doesn’t get it, he gets the flu like all holy hell. If I don’t get the flu shot, I’m fine. I don’t get the flu. Period. If I get the flu shot (like I have once in a long long while) I will, without fail, get the flu. Badly. It goes very badly for me. I also got measles and chicken pox FROM the vaccines when I was a kid. Lucky me. It’s just my type of body, which a doctor finally admits will sometimes happen. So now you know. And what about your child? Only experience will tell. My son got the chicken pox from his vaccine. The doc said it COULDN’T happen. He ate his words with egg on his face. My son is also in a high-risk category for H1N1 (being part native) and so he got the 1st shot. Which he reacted to. Badly. We didn’t go back for the second. So now I know, his body is like mine, not his dads. Yay for us. No more shots! ;)

    (Does that help?)

    By the way, honest information about flu shots will say they only protect for a few months anyway, and then the strain will have mutated and then you’re on your own. And now you know.

  13. Jane–what did you do about the vaccines they give babies the moment they are born?

    • We have an absolutely wonderful pediatrician that helped us fill out special forms dictating which vaccine (only one) should be given at birth. I can’t remember which one we chose, but it was whatever our doctor thought was the most important/gentle/? to start with. Then, our son received only one each doctor visit, and extra visits, until he was a toddler. I was a special ed major in college at a time when the great autism/vaccine debate was going on. After my careful study (and research paper after research paper) I feel that vaccines may not cause autism but that an onslaught of vaccines wrecks havoc on the body in such a way to invite trouble. My doctor agreed with me. And I wasn’t taking any chances.

      • I am very interested in this! If you ever take a look at their records…..I would be SUPER curious to know which one the hospital did first. Thank you for the info. I second your concerns and like the process you did!!

  14. Steven Harris

    I do have a flu vaccinnation every year but it’s a better safe than sorry policy with me due to my respiratory issues. Were I not liable to pick up flu and not be able to shake it for several months, I’d probably avoid needles in my arm as much as possible.

  15. Geez, it’s too bad for you that you’re not more closed-minded and self-righteous. If you’re not going to get the shot, at least you should have the pleasure of telling the rest of us how mindless and Big Brother-susceptible and credulous we are. :) I have read extensively trying to educate myself about vaccinations and honestly I still feel like I should flip a coin about most of the questionable ones (the regular ones we absolutely get because, simply put, the risks of being unvaccinated are worse than the risks of being vaccinated). Angus and I have very reactive airways so we get the flu shot because I want to do everything I can to protect our lungs. My husband usually doesn’t get it and all I say is he shouldn’t expect a buttload of sympathy if he gets it. I get it for Eve because Angus would be pissed if he had to get it and she didn’t — how’s that for arbitrary? If you weren’t vaccinating your kids against measles or pertussis, we’d be having a different conversation. For the flu shot there are no hard and fast answers, and you’re intelligent enough to decide what’s right for you and your family — then try not to agonize over it.

  16. unabridgedgirl

    After experiencing swine flu last year and ending up in the hospital, I didn’t hesitate with the flu shot. It might not protect me against the strains, but I do not want to go through what I did last year ever, ever again. Ever.

    On the other hand, my immune system is weaker than most, so allowing my body to simply fight everything it comes into contact with isn’t the best of ideas. I think it’s simply up to you and how you feel.

  17. My three year old daughter has had a flu shot each year and I have had one too, really just as protection for her as before I became a mother I would never have bothered. We’ve not had our shots yet this flu season but I think we will do it again this year.

  18. Oh, Jane, you can call me anytime to worry about and obsess over this question. Last year I literally lost sleep agonizing over what to do about the H1N1 vaccine. I don’t think the apocalyptic media coverage helped much. (We all eventually got it.)

    I’ve already had my shot this year and my husband and sons will get theirs tomorrow. As a pregnant woman who will deliver during flu season, I fall into a “high risk” group and that made it easier to make the choice.

    Good luck!

  19. Just go get the flu shot. This year and every year.

  20. My husband believes in the flu shot. I’ve never gotten one. And I won’t be getting one this year.

    I’m pretty healthy and have no ailments. If I get the flu, worst thing that will happen will be I lose a few pounds and get to take a few days off work. how bad can it be?? : )

  21. Here are some of the questions that I pondered while I did decide if we should have the vaccine or not.
    How will a bout of flu affect my stay at home job, do I have the support I need if I do get sick (business, home, pups, taking kid to school) and what kind of natural preventive methods can I implement to reduce the chances of catching the flu.
    After pondering, I made my choice with confidence.
    Good Luck!

  22. I am with you … there will be no flu shot for me this year. It is a big push here with a “flu clinic” at the school … all students and staff can get it for “free” this year. I have never gotten a flu shot … I roll the dice and take my chances wondering all season if I made the right decision.
    This year, that fact that everyone else at school is getting the shot .. their shots are protecting me .. my chances of staying well should be good … right?

  23. I’ve always skipped the flu shots because my ex-husband always got terribly ill from the mandatory, annual flu shot in the Artmy. I wonder how important they are because my GP doesn’t pressure me about it even though I have asthma.

    My kids got all of their scheduled vaccinations including the chicken pox and menigitis. I had the same concern about adult chicken pox. I wanted to get vaccinated myself since I never had them as a kid but my GP wanted to test me first. Turns out I was immune. Weird, huh?

    My teenage boys are also going through the series of Gardisil shots. It was a decision that my husband and I made along with our doctor. But yet, I still won’t do the flu shot.

  24. I vascillate on this subject as well. Last year my pediatrician didn’t have the mercury free flu vaccine for my daughter so we opted out until they were able to get the traditional vaccine. My husband is in the medical profession and has always supported vaccinations. He has shown me compelling scientific evidence that makes a pretty strong argument. I know there are cases where vaccines can go horribly wrong, but most of the time I am inclined to go ahead and move forward with the vaccine.

  25. ck

    I usually get my girls the shots and skip them myself. And then on Friday I was at my own yearly physical and the doctor mentioned the flu mist and I figured, “Why not? I’m already here.”

    And I woke up sick this morning.

    (Dammit.)

  26. K

    We almost always get the flu shot — I have several auto-immune diseases plus asthma plus GERD so if I get so much as a cold it always ends with bronchitis or pneumonia. So my husband and kids and I get it every year.

    Don’t do flu mist. It is horribly icky to take, plus we all felt awful for a week after taking it. Usually I feel icky for a day or two after the shot but no one else in the family does.

    The years we did not get the flu shot were the years I got the flu followed by pneumonia… concidence? Who knows…

  27. We go back and forth too…usually we end up doing it but this year I think we’re going to skip it…and I’m nervous!

  28. Vaccines always produce an interesting conversation in my house too. I am a believer in vaccines but, I was skeptical about the chicken pox vaccine. My husband was adamant and my child’s doctor encouraged me too. So, the kids got the vaccines.

    I was not gung-ho on the flu vaccine until last year. I got the flu, the real thing. I swear I thought death was an alternative (just kidding but it was that bad). I had a whole new appreciation for the vaccine. I have yet to get he flu vaccine this year but have convinced myself, it is a good idea.

  29. I’ve never had a flue shot. Ever. Neither has my husband or either of the kids (now grown). I think we can count the number of times we’ve had the flu on one hand, collectively. Chicken Pox? Fortunately I didn’t have to make that decision as my kids had already had them by the time is was fashionable to get the vaccine. I have a nurse friend who had her daughter get the cervical cancer vaccine when she was 14 years old…”coincidentally” she developed MS about 2 weeks later. Although they can’t prove it was caused by the vaccine, I’m sure she wishes she’d never had her immunized.

    I am a proponent of DPT, Hepatitis and MMR shots for kids though. Those diseases are too risky even for me. So, I guess if getting a flu shot helps you sleep better at night, go get one. If you’re not convinced, fortunately you still have the choice to not get one.

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