The Big Debate: Flu Shot, or Not?

October 29, 2008

The flu shot is a huge bugaboo among many healthcare workers. Many refuse to get vaccinated and their reasons are varied.

The flu shot is a huge bugaboo among many healthcare workers. Many refuse to get vaccinated and their reasons are varied — just as varied as those who aren’t in healthcare. Some people claim that the one time they had a flu shot, they became the sickest they’d ever been. Others say that since it can’t be guaranteed that the right strains of the flu were chosen for the vaccine, there’s no point. Or they say that since they never get sick, they don’t need a flu shot. And, there’s the group who say that they have had the flu and it wasn’t that bad, so they don’t need one.

To me, a vaccine proponent, these excuses bother me, especially the last one. Anyone who has really had influenza — not a stomach flu or a 24-hour flu, will do anything not to get it again. The real flu hits so hard that you’re lucky if you can get out of bed to go to the bathroom for the first 48 hours or so. Then, as you stop feeling sicker, you have to start recovering, which can take several days – and for some people weeks. If you’ve had influenza, you know it and are miserable for much longer than 24 hours.

What about the other excuses? The virus in the vaccination is dead — you can’t get sick from it. You might have a bit of a reaction to the vaccine itself, but you can’t get the flu from it. And about the strains? Yes, the researchers don’t always get the right strains, but the vaccines still reduce the chances of developing the flu and for minimizing it if you do get it.

The flu *kills*. It has killed and it will kill again. As healthcare workers, we have a responsibility not to make our patients sicker. But if we catch the virus, we have a good chance of passing it on to others. Our patients are already sick — if they get the flu, it can have very severe consequences.

Personally, I get the flu vaccine every year. I get so incredibly sick whenever I get just a cold — it goes to my chest and I end up with bronchitis or pneumonia. I even had pleurisy once. I’m terrified of what the flu would do to me. My husband gets the flu vaccine every year because he did have influenza once. And he wants to minimize his chances of ever getting it again.

Up to when my kids turned 18, I made sure they got the vaccine too. If they got sick, I would get sick. What they do now, as adults, is up to them but I do hope they continue to get the vaccine.

So, if you are adamant about not getting the flu shot, I’ve likely not changed your mind. But if you’re iffy about it, if I can just convince you to look at it a little closer, and think about the effects of the people around you, I’ve done my job for this week.