I am adamantly and passionately pro-flu shot since my own run-in with the flu. I remember the exact year and the place: 1992 and Bethesda, at the National Institutes of Health. I was working there on a Howard Hughes fellowship for the year, and in the early spring I contracted a most virulent strain of influenza. I was sick as a DOG. I literally did not leave my bed for three days, except to go to the bathroom, which I barely remember. I did not eat or drink. My fever cranked upwards of 104 degrees and there was no one there to take care of me; my folks lived in Alabama and I did not dare ask anyone else to get near me for fears I would get them sick too. Not only that, but the flu left me drained, weak and unable to work for nearly a week afterward. For someone who hardly ever gets sick, that is saying something. It also left me horribly depressed, a known side effect of influenza. I called my mother crying every day for a week during my recuperation. She was terribly concerned about me, as well she should have been. The next year when the flu shot was made available, I took it.
I got the flu shot every year since then. I have already gotten my flu shot this year. I have gotten them for twenty years in a row and have not missed a year. I have never again had the flu and I pray I never do. I got my flu shot the year the H1N1 strain of flu got out, and I doctored plenty of sick pregnant women without ever catching it. The flu shot is recommended for women in all three trimesters of pregnancy, and I highly suggest they get it. Pregnant women with the flu are highly susceptible to influenza pneumonia, and we had pregnant women that year who were on ventilators for it.
What people don’t understand is that the flu is lethal. There are several thousand deaths from flu each year in the United States alone, but people dismiss it as “just the flu”. If some new disease killed that many people, we would all be freaking out. If you want to read a shocking description of a flu pandemic, read “The Great Flu”. It describes the great flu pandemic of the early 1900s and it basically states that one out of ten citizens who were stricken with it died. An eye witness described riding on a streetcar and one of the passengers and the driver being dead by the end of the run. Very few people take the flu seriously but when I see a new strain described I get very afraid.
I did witness the funniest thing today. One of the nurse practioners works for a physician hospitalist who has a great sense of humor. Apparently she refused to get her flu shot when the infectious disease personnel came around with them. Her physician boss was quite put out with her for refusing her vaccine and he was not going to take no for an answer. He and she and I were all sitting around the physician dining room today when suddenly two nurses wheeled in with a tray containing flu shots. He had had them come to the physician’s lunchroom to get her! She couldn’t say no and she got her flu shot on the spot. She vowed revenge and told him he would not get a Christmas gift from her THIS year! He tried to give her a piece of cake but she turned her back on him and pretended to give him the cold shoulder. We were all laughing at his insistence but I totally agreed with him. Got to get that flu shot!
As for those who claim they get “flu-like symptoms” when they get their flu shot, I say this: There is a whole lot of difference between “flu-like symptoms” and the flu. As in, the real flu is about a hundred times worse. A little stuffy nose and an achy arm from the flu shot is NOTHING compared to the real flu. I strongly advise people of every age and walk of life to get their flu vaccines this year and every year.