Thursday, October 29, 2009

Getting the flu vaccine

I've gotten the flu vaccine every year for a while now (my mother calls me every fall to make sure.) I've already gotten the seasonal flu vaccine this year, and as a health student with direct patient contact I'm being offered the H1N1 vaccine as well. (I'm glad that as a research assistant at my school, I'm considered a university employee and am offered both vaccines through Employee Health, because H1N1 vaccine is tough to find right now.)

I know that there are questions about vaccine safety, particularly for children, and I know that some health care workers are refusing the H1N1 vaccine. Personally, I get the flu vaccine for 3 reasons:

1) I don't want to get the flu. It sucks. I've only had it once as an adult, and it was so much worse than I remembered. I had a fever, was very achy, could barely sleep because I couldn't breathe through my nose, was coughing terribly, missed days of work, and could only lie on the couch and stare at the TV. (I watched the same episode of "The Ashlee Simpson Show" three times. 'Nuff said.)

2) Whatever risks the vaccine has, I believe them to be very small for me. Whatever else one's feelings about vaccines for children, I feel comfortable getting vaccines as an adult. I've never had an allergic reaction to a vaccine, and I've done all my growing and developing. Beyond that, it's just an achy arm.

3) Since I think any risks are small, I'm willing to take them on, both to protect myself and also to reduce my chances of passing on the flu to the pregnant/postpartum women and infants I work with. If I can't get the flu, then I can't transmit it either.

To me, vaccines for parents/caretakers/health care workers are a no-brainer. One thing I learned this summer is that new parents are now recommended to update their whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine, as immunity can fade over time and whooping cough is back on the rise. Re-upping this vaccine helps "cocoon" infants until they can be fully vaccinated, and I think it's all the more important if you're not planning to vaccinate, or use an adjusted schedule. I get the concerns of parents who resist vaccinating their children, but it can't hurt to at least vaccinate yourself and offer them protection through your immunity. Why pass it on if you don't have to?

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