Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Photo credit: zeathiel (stock.xchng)
When it comes to worldviews, I am on Team Science.
I believe that vaccines are one of the most important tools we have in reducing the impact of disease. I would have a good laugh at the hysterics of the anti-vaccine crowd, if only the consequences of their denial weren’t so serious.
If I had young children, I would definitely take them to be vaccinated.
I haven’t had a flu shot yet.
I have never had a flu shot.
Why don’t I get the flu shot?
Even though every expert says I should?
Even though it’s not difficult or expensive to do so?
Even though this is the worst flu season in years?
I have thought about it, and I’ve concluded that I am still not 100% convinced that I need it.
Disclosure: I have not had the flu since high school. I don’t often hang out in crowds, I back away from people who sneeze and cough, and I am extra-careful about washing after I sneeze and cough – but of course, dumb luck plays a role, too.
Not too long ago, these were the only people who needed flu shots:
• Elderly people
• Pregnant women
• People with chronic disease
• Health care workers
• Children between 6 months and 18 years
• Anyone who spends considerable time with people in the above groups
In 2010, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) made it simpler: Everyone over 6 months is recommended to get a flu shot. And today, if you don’t get a flu shot, you’re a selfish so-and-so who is a menace to society, because you may spread the flu even if you don’t feel sick yourself (an argument I’ve never heard before this year).
But still, I hesitate to go and get my flu shot.
I am not afraid of chemicals in the flu shot (chemical exposure is a part of life). I am not afraid of getting the flu from the flu shot (which technically doesn’t happen; some people may feel ill because of the flu antibodies rising up to fight the dead flu virus in the shot). I am not (that) afraid of needles; I get a blood screening every year as part of my annual checkup, and there is a nasal flu vaccine available.
I am concerned about having to repeat the shot next year, and the year after that, and so on and so on and so on. Unlike childhood vaccinations – which take place once or at most twice in a lifetime – the flu vaccine changes every year. I am not sure I want to be vaccinated with a new formula every year for the rest of my life. What if something goes wrong with one of these yearly vaccines?
Or maybe being screamed at is the opposite of motivation for me.
My childhood is past. I will never be pregnant or work in health care. Until I reach a certain age, or if I should find myself living with children or old or sick people – or if a compelling reason besides media hype should appear before my eyes– I will wait to get vaccinated for flu.
And wash my hands and watch out for sneezers.