In A Rush?
The controversy of the influenza vaccine, or seasonal flu shot, literally cracks me up. It’s a flu shot….it prevents the flu, the data is established, the side effects are minimal, yet somehow the needle is embedded with as much internet gossip as that long haired dude in One Direction.
Nonetheless, I respect the plight of parents, albeit it’s one I don’t understand. (No little Indian children in my facebook photos). It’s a parent’s job to soak in information and make a decision, best suited for defending their little ones. As a pediatric resident, I learn immensely from parental concerns – it sort of helps me meet them in the middle. But, goodness, I sometimes share a laugh with parents when we chat about the many internet fueled reasons for not getting a flu shot….
Well, It’s that time of year when influenza spreads like bargain shoppers on Black Friday so in the holiday spirit, here are my 5 favorite anti-flu shot arguments:
(Where I come from, Black Friday is a major holiday. Phoenix, Arizona.)
5: “In my home country, we don’t get the flu shot!”
Let’s be real, the entire world isn’t exactly thrilled about western medicine. I have relatives that swear by the almost elixir-like qualities of turmeric, yet in America, only the “alternative” crowd subscribes to it. I’m one of those people, the stuff is legit.
Anyway, there’s a cultural divide when it comes to sticking needles of trust into your child’s arm. Well let me help divulge a secret – this is not a solo American game. It’s a global effort.
There are 141 national influenza centers in 111 countries that literally look at flu trends, worldwide, and make educated predictions about which strains are most likely to cause the biggest annual ruckus. THEN, each country involved makes their own decision based on trends about which influenza shots to hand out.
You live here. Or at least you’re spending enough time here to have a chat with a physician about the flu shot. This means you and your loved ones are in contact with the influenza strain of the red, white, and blue.
So let’s all be global citizens with this issue ok planeteers?
“Hey kids, I’ve a green mullet, blue skin, and severe issues but INFLUENZA ain’t one” – Captain Planet
4. “Last year, my son cried and was miserable after getting the flu shot – back off!”
You know what’s way worse than a sore arm and a cranky child demanding a happy meal? The flu itself.
Consider a fussy child vs taking time off work to take care of that fussy child for several days because his punk classmate caught the flu, didn’t wash his hands, and played pattycake with everyone. Money/time spent on 2 minute flu shot vs money/time spent on dealing with influenza.
The good old standard-dose trivalent shot (IIV3) is a needle that goes into your arm. No pandoras box here -> Little Timmy may develop soreness, redness, or swelling in his pitching arm. (Obviously I mean Nintendo Wii pitching. This is 2014).
Just exercise the arm, distract your kid, and ride it out for a day or two. Even if a low-grade fever and muscle aches show themselves, it’s all good. A study comparing the flu shot with a shot of saline (a placebo) actually showed no difference in body aches, fevers, or respiratory symptoms.
At the end of the day, if you’re concerned, just swing a call to your clinic and touch base.
3. “Oh yeah? The FLU SHOT CA– USES THE FLU! Egad.”
No, it doesn’t. I won’t belabor this point as it’s easily the most google-able debunked fallacy about the flu shot.
The trivalent vaccine contains an inactivated assortment of genes from flu strains designed to give your immune system a “blueprint” from which to make antibodies. I’m obviously skipping about a 100 nobel-worthy steps but this is pretty much how it goes. You know those folks that hate the Affordable Care Act but have no idea the actual law says? Don’t let the hate translate -> Read up on how the flu vaccine is made, or be a baller and read the actual flu shot insert.
In a nutshell, you. are. not. injected. with. the. flu. itself.
Blueprint remember? You’re injecting Danny Ocean into your arm.
But can you catch the flu after the shot? Possibly. It takes 1-2 weeks to take full effect so IT IS possible you caught the bug in the interim period, if so, timing is not your friend.
Also, bear in mind, a really, severe, bad cold is not necessarily the ‘flu’.
“Oh man, we all got the flu last year”
“That’s terrible – did you get confirmed influenza testing??”
“Noo…but I’m pretty sure it was”
Based on what?? Because Emergen-C didn’t work? (that nonsense is overrated btw). Sure, it could have been the flu, but, statistically, it was your friendly, neighborhood rhinovirus. Aka the common cold.
You may be wondering about FluMist now…the live, attenuated (weakened), vaccine that you inhale, as opposed to inject. Truth, it can cause wheezing and cold-like symptoms in young children with ANY history of wheezing/asthma. Solution? You guessed it, avoid it in such kids. Boom, you’re a rockstar.
2. “It can cause crazy neurologic problems!! Didn’t you see that ONE TV show that ONE TIME!?”
What’s foreign is usually scary, I get that. If you’re unsure about an ingredient being injected into your toddler’s arm, I think it’s your parental right to research and ask questions.
But rationalize your way through the murky water. Recall, Desiree Jennings, the Washington Redskins cheerleader who had a wild story, back in 2009 about her reaction to the flu shot. Purportedly, she was dystonic, had spasms, and slurred speech but there are reports of her walking her dogs, driving, and living a normal life.
Hoax or not, this story is severely old and only 2014 worthy because the initial fear it stirred STILL has an annoying Jenny McCarthy effect on public health. It’s likely because fear is a powerful public health factor – controversy is way sexier in media than “boring”, good old normalcy.
You’ve maybe read on anti-vaccine sites about Guillain-Barre’ Syndrome as a side effect. Yah, that’s a pretty scary condition but mostly treatable. Also affects about 1 out of a million individuals. But if you like to play odds consider other wild gambles: Odds of dying by a bee sting are somewhere around 1 in 80,000, by a doggy, about 1 in 140,000, strolling on the sidewalk, about 1 in 700, and by a friendly earthquake? About 1 in 100,000.
Alright let’s create a safety plan of action -> No flu shot, no picnics, no sidewalks, spray bear spray on all dogs, and sit in fields, where earthquake-related debris won’t find you. And do all this in a bee-suit.
“Eat Cheerios or I’ll kill you” – The 1 in 80,000 cereal mascot.
I’d rather get 10 flu shots than throw down with this untrustworthy fool.
1. “The flu shot is a government conspiracy.”
This is hands down the most wild reason I have ever come across to not get the flu shot. But trust me, it exists and again, I’m not making fun, I’m just astonished at how far the fear factor can push people.
A government conspiracy? To do what exactly? Give the people the flu? Considering that cases are not rising, this plan sucks.
There are these ridiculous (albeit, entertaining) websites out there touting that there’s an international crime syndicate, working with our government, behind influenza propaganda. Their secret role is to spread fear, entice people to get the vaccine, and make loads of money.
If so, these are hands down the dumbest criminals on the planet as annual influenza costs are pretty high – some estimates sit around $4.6 billion yearly, with over 100 million lost work days, accumulating in $7 billion of lost productivity.
They’d make way more money trying to prevent the flu, then laundering money out of government services. Whoops…I may have just divulged a secret. For that, dearest global criminals, I ask for a 10% royalty. Or just pay off my medical school loans, whatever.
So in the end, it’s up to you parents, friends, and anyone in between. It’s all of our job to amp up herd immunity, and protect those that are highest risk – our babies, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. And we’re all in the pursuit of health together so, when in doubt, just ask your healthcare provider – just avoid the international crime syndicates, bees, and One Direction fans.
What’s My Point?