Thursday, September 9, 2010

To Poke or Not to Poke

....that is the question.

It's that time of year. One that I always sort of dread. Flu season.

Or, more correctly, flu shot season.

Up until the last few years, we religiously got our flu vaccines. Once we had kids, we figured it was just safer to do it, trusting that they would work.

A few years back, there was a shortage of the vaccines. People were afraid of huge epidemics. My kids were on the should get it more than other kids, but not on the absolutely needs it list, so they didn't ever get one. The clinics ran out before our number was called.

No one in my house got the flu that year, though we went bare. The epidemics they warned of never materialized.

Then two years ago, we all lined up for the poke in the arm. The kids giggled when Tom and I got our shots. Months passed. Winter was just about over, another flu season almost over, when it hit. Ashley woke up one morning totally fine, and by 9:30 a.m. had spiked a fever over 105. Holding a vomiting child in the bathtub, calling the hospital and being told to get her there now isn't my idea of a good time.

She had the flu. Even with the vaccine, she got it. Because of her history with asthma, we got the antivirals. Over $200 worth of medication which arguably did nothing. She was down for weeks.

Then last year happened. I saw H1N1 coming months ahead of time. Having a background in public health is a blessing and a curse sometimes. Once the WHO issues statements, people like me tend to listen. And they did.

Trouble was, not enough people took those warnings seriously. At least not seriously enough. There was no vaccine available for this strain of the flu. By the time the schools bothered trying to contain the virus, Ashley's class had less than 1/3 of the students well. Everyone else was home sick.

Many got sick, some got very sick. Ashley, again, was the sickest in her class. She almost ended up hospitalized from the pneumonia that attacked her after the virus.

A few months later, a vaccine came out. I found it funny that so many people urged everyone to get the vaccine. We had the disease by then. It was too little, too late.

I've made a choice as a parent to be cautious with vaccines and my youngest. He's reacted every time he has had shots, and as a result, we are spreading them out. At his last appointment, his doctor informed me that the flu vaccines this year are a combination vaccine, with H1N1 included.

Isn't that great? (insert sarcasm here)

Personally, I don't think so. I hope that they have vaccines available that don't include H1N1. I've struggled with whether we will even bother at all anymore. The vaccines have failed us before.

Then there is that whole the flu vaccines contain thimerosol thing. If you can manage to overlook the fact that the symptoms of autism and mercury poisoning are almost identical, you can believe that there really is no link. Yes, I know that it's never been proven to be a cause.

The CDC says it is safe. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/thimerosal.htm

I'm a footnote reader though. And I want to know where they get their information from. Turns out the last study they are citing as proof of safety is 8 years old. With my background in health research, I know all too well that it's possible to prove or disprove just about any hypothesis, and the vast majority of health studies are funded by....wait for it....pharmaceutical companies. You know, the ones that manufacture vaccines and antivirals.

I'm a skeptical person. And I don't happen to think anyone should be injecting mercury into their bodies. But that's just me.

So, we have to decide, yet again, whether we will do it or not. I'm leaning towards not.

To poke or not to poke....how do you answer that question?

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