“Do you want to get your flu shot today?”
I was at my doctor’s office for a regularly scheduled appointment this afternoon when the physicians’ assistant posed this question. It wasn't an easy question for me to answer. I haven’t gotten a flu shot in years and I can’t recall the last time I had the flu. I’m not afraid of getting a shot. I’m afraid of getting the flu.
My reluctance in getting the shot is linked to my belief that some people actually get sick after having a flu shot. Why would I want to do that when I rarely get sick under normal consequences? Then again, just because I hadn't gotten the flu in years doesn't necessarily mean I’d dodge the bullet again this year.
“Do you want to wait and discuss this with Dr. Fish?”
For a brief moment I considered that and then thought “why bother.” I knew my doc would recommend it. I told her to go ahead and give me the shot.
When my doc came into the exam room I asked him whether he knew of anyone getting the flu as a result of the flu shot. “Never,” he replied. He went to say that it was medically impossible.
When I got back to my office I checked the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just to get a little reassurance.
“The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. The risk of a flu shot causing serious harm or death is extremely small. However, a vaccine, like any medicine, may rarely cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. Almost all people who get influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it.”
Still, getting a flu shot is no guarantee that you won’t get the flu either.
“The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends on the age and health status of the person getting the vaccine, and the similarity or “match” between the viruses or virus in the vaccine and those in circulation.”
All I know is that if I get the flu this year I’m going to be pretty pissed.