Yesterday Tim and I got our flu shots! Yay us!
We actually went there with the intention of getting the 1st in the series of shingles shots. But as it turns out, there is a shortage of the vaccine and therefore it's unavailable. In fact, the pharmacist told us that there were already 40 people on the waiting list for the 2nd vaccine who had gotten the first already. Obviously, they are at the head of the line when vaccine shows up again.
I don't get this shortage of vaccine thing. They keep lambasting us with..."get this vaccine, get this vaccine". Okay, we are trying to do what what we were told and then...."nope, only fooling. We don't have any". That was kind of annoying. And Surprising.
But we didn't want to waste the inclination to be be stuck with needles so when the pharmacist offered us our flu shots instead, even though it was a month earlier than we usually do it, we said, "what they heck, let's do it". I wear my bandaid proudly.
I never really thought about the whole flu shot or not debate until I worked at Hospice which is probably 25 years ago or so. In fact, nobody even asked if I wanted the shot. One of the nurses came up to me and asked if I was allergic to eggs, I said no why? And the other nurse jabbed me with a needle. Ouchie. Turned out it was a requirement at that job. I thought about it later and it made perfect sense. Working around sick and dying people and the people who care for those sick and dying people put us at higher risk. And if we got sick, we could imperil those same patients and their familes. Also I didn't want to be sick myself and possibly pass it along to my family. Selfish I suppose, but hey, it's honest.
From that point forward I have made it a point to get my flu shot (almost) every single year. And in all of that time, I only got the flu once. Once was enough. It was probably one of the most miserable weeks I've ever spent. Let's not EVER do that again.
And misery aside because Ok I could be miserable for a week. Obviously. I already was. But influenza doens't just make people sick. It can actually kill you. In 1918 influenza, or "the flu", killed between 50 and 100 million people in the world, 2/3 of them in a single 10 week period of time. 675,000 of those people were in the US. In New York City alone the flu killed 20,000 and produced 31,000 orphans. In Philadelphia, priests drove carts through the streets encouraging people to bring out their dead so that they could be buried. People cowered in their homes, afraid to be around other people who might possibly carry the disease. It was a terrible time. And it wasn't just the elderly, the ill or babies who have not yet built up an immune system who died. Perfectly robust healthy people went to work feeling fine in the morning and were dead by the end of the day. Seriously.
There have been three flu pandemics since 1918. Thomas Frieden who stepped down as the head of the CDC last year said in an interview, "We always worry about pandemic influenza because this has the potential to kill so many people. We stockpile antivirals for an emergency. But much more is needed to both track influenza better around the world and devlop a better flu vaccine."
A Vaccine. Yes to fight against it and that's because there is no cure for the flu. It's a tricky virus and morphs into something different every year. We have no control over this virus. It does exactly as it pleases. The best thing that we can do, is to arm ourselves as best we can against it.
The 1918 influenza pandemic was terrifying and I know you are thinking. "yes but that was 100 years ago. Old news. Ancient history." It might interest you to know that in 1957 the "Asian Flu" left as many as 4 million dead around the world. As recently as 2009 there were 60.9 million cases of the flu reported in the US. Far more cases are suspected to have been active, but unreported. Nearly 600,000 people died. That is only 9 years ago.
So, with that in mind, I believe I will continue to get my annual flu shot. Wear my little bandaid and have a tiny bit of a bruise for a couple of days. I do not care to be that sort of statistic thank you very much.
Meanwhile, we will keep checking to see when the Shingles vaccine is available again. Tim has zero desire to ever suffer shingles again. And now that I have witnessed his bout, I am feeling the same way.
You know when I was a kid, people still got measles, mumps, whooping cough, scarlett fever and polio. I had every kind of measles a person could have. For some reason I had some sort of proclivity to the disease. I do not recall suffering mumps but I had scarlett fever, very badly and ended up with hearing loss as a result. I am very fortunate that by the time I was in school, a polio vaccine had been developed. It was bright pink and was extremely sweet but the sweetness merely covered a superbly nasty bitterness that lingered on the tongue. They lined us up against the wall in the cafeteria and every child was given a tiny pleated papercup of the vaccine to bolt down our gullets. But unlike far too many people, I did not get polio. I am so grateful that I was not one of the unfortunate before Dr. Salk's vaccine was available, who either died, spent their lives inside an iron lung machine or had to use braces and crutches to walk for the rest of their lives.
I remember the misery of having measles. Fever, achy body, coughing through a painful throat, sore eyes, lying in a darkened room for endless days, waiting for it to be over. I remember every families fear that polio would strike. I remember the sound of children with whooping cough, spasms wracking their little bodies, gasping for air that would not come. Those kinds of diseases are terrifying.
I am certainly never going to tell someone else what to do. We all make our own choices. But you better believe that my kids had every vaccine that was available to them. And Tim and I will absolutely do the same for our own sake and for the safety of those around us.
Just sayin' It's flu season already. If you are so inclined, go get your shot!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.