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Monday, January 24, 2011

20/20 Hindsight - a Public Service Announcement

Every year when I see those Public Service Announcements telling people to get their flu shots, I tend to ignore them.

First of all, it's kind of a crap shoot, right? The mad scientists at the CDC in Atlanta who decide what strains of the flu will be prevalent around the world are no better than wall street analysts... or gamblers, for that matter. They don't really know!

So they may mix up a few hundred million doses of flu vaccine that will provide protection against strains A, B and C... while what actually washes up on our shores might be strains X, Y and Z. And nobody says boo. They're like weather reporters... but without the blue screen and good hair! What a racket!

Then there is the side issue that they guys in the lab coats mostly recommend the flu shots for little kids and old people. Oh sure, anyone can get one and theoretically get a modicum of protection from it... but the people who are most at risk for serious complications from a full blown case of Influenza are little ones and old folks.

Yet now that I'm sitting here at work all glassy-eyed with fever... shaking and aching... I'm wondering what all the rationalizing was about.

The shot is free. It hurts for an instant when you get it... and in a worst case scenario (relatively rare) you get some very minor flu-like symptoms. But that's it.

Think about it... there is nothing but upside to getting a flu shot. True, if a different strain of flu shows up at your door, you'll get it anyway, right? But at least you'd be protected against something!

So can someone tell me why I didn't get one?

[Update: Appointment with our family doc has been made. He'll take my temperature, poke and prod me, and tell me I should have gotten a flu shot. For that he had to go to medical school? What a racket!]

Posted by David Bogner on January 24, 2011 | Permalink


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My brother's father-in-law became paralyzed after getting his flu shot this year. Apparently others have too - http://www.torontosun.com/news/columnists/michele_mandel/2010/02/06/12774076.html
I'll chance the flu.

Posted by: Abie Zayit | Jan 24, 2011 1:52:18 PM

Abie Zayit... Wiser people than I have offered the following: Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a very serious disorder that effects the nervous system and causes paralysis. It is very rare and usually occurs after an illness, but occasionally occurs after a flu shot. Anyone who has previously had Guillain-Barre Syndrome should not get a flu shot.

Although this is a very serious disorder and potential side effect of the flu shot, it should not necessarily prevent you from getting one. The risk of serious complications from the influenza virus is much greater than the risk of getting Guillain-Barre syndrome. However, it is something you should be aware of.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jan 24, 2011 3:04:34 PM

Those of us who catch continuous respiratory illnesses from August until January sorta have a hard time getting a flu shot. I think I've managed to stay well long enough to get one -- oh, about one year in three, maybe less than that.

That said, I highly recommend the pneumonia shot (which you only take once every few years anyway). The fact that I haven't caught my regular pneumonia every other year, ever since I started getting it, is proof that it must work. If they could only get a bronchitis shot going, I'd be golden! :)

Posted by: Maureen | Jan 24, 2011 3:57:49 PM

ask him for Tamiflu

Posted by: dave | Jan 24, 2011 5:11:22 PM

Refuah shelema. I was flat on my back with a fever a couple of weeks ago, so I feel your pain.

Posted by: psachya | Jan 24, 2011 5:59:10 PM

Everyone please stop talking. You're all making me very nervous.

Posted by: Baila | Jan 24, 2011 7:04:56 PM

Go home! Go to bed! You don't want to bless your workmates with it.

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | Jan 24, 2011 7:51:24 PM

Actually,the people at the CDC know exactly what they're doing because they track the specific strains of active 'flu as they make their way from the southern hemisphere to the northern one, so whilst the Aussies are sneezing and coughing in their winter, the scientists are busy making up the brew to protect us throughout ours.
Me - wouldn't dream of not having my annual shot.

Posted by: Israelinurse | Jan 25, 2011 12:37:30 AM

I was like you last year Trep. What was all the fuss about swine flu? Just regular flu with good PR I thought. Then I caught swine flu. I was so ill I thought I was dying. Literally. I had sky high temperature and had trouble breathing. I should have taken myself to hospital but I was too weak to pick up the phone. My husband was (sensibly) abroad and the kids had the flu too. Eventually it passed but I felt the after-effects till the summer.

This year I got the flu shot as soon as I could. I'm so glad I did.

Posted by: annie | Jan 25, 2011 12:56:28 AM

Forgot to add- wish you refuah shlema. Take yourself to bed, drink lots of water and tea, and pamper yourself.

Posted by: annie | Jan 25, 2011 12:57:24 AM

The Missus always makes sure we get our flu shots... alas, her mother never listens to her when the word "doctor" crosses her lips, with the result that my Makheteneste suffered mightily (and needlessly!) with the flu last week. And at her age, it's no laughing matter.

Get the shot!

Posted by: Elisson | Jan 25, 2011 2:43:45 AM

David, we have replied to your post here:


Posted by: avi | Jan 25, 2011 4:52:39 AM

I learned my lesson many years ago,when the muscle ache was so bad it hurt to blink my eyes.I haven`t missed my annual shot in over 20 years. Many people in the US think others will get the shots,be protected,and not pass flu on to them.

Posted by: ED | Jan 25, 2011 9:55:04 AM

Forgot to say, I've never had a flu shot in my life and I've only had flu twice in 49 years. Bad colds I've had in abundance. I just wish the scientists would come up with some kind of protection against the common cold.

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | Jan 25, 2011 10:02:49 AM

Not taking a stand on flu shots, but for those who already had swine flu and lived to tell about it there's a possible silver lining:

Posted by: Mona | Jan 25, 2011 2:06:23 PM

Used to get the flu shot every year--was handed out for free to County employees. And every year within 2 weeks I had the flu. One year I missed the shot because I was in trial....hmmmmm......no flu. Next year I skipped it on purpose. Again, no flu!

Will never again get a flu shot.

Posted by: aliyah06 | Jan 30, 2011 10:53:07 PM

I agree, getting the shot is much better than having to get an oximetry test because to the permanent damage done by the flu. I hope this helps!

Posted by: Rick | Sep 19, 2011 6:41:15 PM

I agree, getting the shot is much better than having to get an oximetry test because to the permanent damage done by the flu. I hope this helps!

Posted by: Rick | Sep 19, 2011 6:41:15 PM

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