To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate

On the first things I was asked when I moved to my new nursing home was, "Do you want the flu shot?" I have been getting flu shots since I re-entered the workforce in the mid-1980s. My first year back to work I did not get the flu shot and two-thirds of the building's staff was off with the flu. Somehow, I managed not to catch it.

Oh, but I made up for it next year. I was sick with the flu for two weeks. I decided I wanted to prevent catching it again, so I have gotten a flu shot every year. I only missed in 1990, when I was on chemotherapy for breast cancer and my oncologist advised against it.

Ironically, when breast cancer reoccurred in 2009, and I was again on chemo, I was told it was OK for me to get a flu shot. Even though I was leery about getting it, I did not get sick that year.

Since I am susceptible to pneumonia and live in the communal setting of a nursing home, I feel getting the shot is important. At my first facility, 17 residents died from the flu or its complications in one month.

At my second facility, I was surprised that the younger, more active and behavior prone residents had definite opinions regarding flu shots. Most of them did not get it. They complained flu shots made them sick. Some said they were allergic to the vaccine. Oddly, a few refused it because they thought it was part of a government conspiracy.

I got the flu shot yesterday, and I am pleasantly surprised my injected arm is not sore today. Usually, it becomes achy and stays that way for three days. This year, I tried hard not to dwell on the shot. Nevertheless, I feel a bit odd and more tired than usual. But, I also have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which starts to suppress my mood at the end of September.

I have asked staff here, from aides to office workers, if they will get the flu shot. The majority told me no. The reason most stated was they became quite ill after a flu shot two years in a row and subsequently stopped getting it.

I read an Oct. 6, 2017, article in The New York Times titled, "Why not get a flu shot?” In it, the female doctor recommended everybody get a flu shot, even if they are allergic to eggs. She felt if they got the shot in a physician's office, the recipient would be safe if a bad reaction occurred.

One reader's comment sums up very well the public's feelings about flu shots. I paraphrase: Getting the flu shot is kind of like the gun debate in the United States. You are either for it or against it.

Topics: Clinical , Infection control