Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Before the Flu Shot Debate Starts

Flu season brings out many opinions. The only thing most people can agree on is that getting the influenza virus is miserable.

Prevention of the flu is another story.

Fairly soon, flu shots will start to be advertised and given. That's when all the debating will start. To vaccinate or not, that is the question.

There are people who are anti-vaccine when it comes to the flu shot. Some of these people are against vaccines in general, so naturally those people will not run out and get flu shots. But, there are many people who believe in vaccinations for the most part but aren't interested in the influenza shot. To each his own; that's my viewpoint. If you don't want to get the flu shot, I don't care. It doesn't bother me.

What does bother me is the information shared by those against the vaccinations. It's very easy to share things on social media. Not every article is legitimate. To quote President Trump, some of it is, "Fake news!" You can read some of the fake news articles called out on this piece on HuffPost.

I'm not a doctor. I don't know all the ins and outs of the flu vaccine. But when people share things online like "I hope my family members aren't getting flu shots," with an article warning about some aspect of the flu shot, I want to sigh. Some of these articles warn against about future infertility, toxic ingredients, and terrible rare side effects. I have had other adults ask me about flu shots and voice concern over things they have read on Facebook. Fear has become attached to the vaccine because of some of these posts. Some people are very confident in their anti-vaccine opinion. I hope that they have read and researched from more than one source of information before they share. I will admit, I haven't spent hours and hours researching flu shots. I only know one piece of critical information.

I started getting the flu vaccine when my daughter was young. I can't recall when I first vaccinated her for the flu. I am guessing it was age 1 or 2. Her doctors have always stressed the importance of the flu vaccines. Every doctor. Each cardiologist, pulmonologist, ENT, and primary doctor my daughter has seen over her 12 years of life have all asked me repeatedly during flu season if Jaycee was vaccinated. To which I have always said yes. (And yes, I have heard the whole viewpoint that every medical professional is pro-vaccination because it's a money maker.)

For our family, we can't risk getting influenza. Jaycee's two heart conditions, asthma, sleep apnea, and other medical conditions mean that an influenza virus could be dangerous for her. Back in 2011, Jaycee came down with Influenza A. During the illness, it triggered an extremely fast and dangerous heartrate in the 200s and led to the diagnosis of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. It was scary as she had to have medications administered to slow her heart rate down. Even though Jaycee was vaccinated, she still caught the virus. But, that moment showed me how unpredictable the influenza virus could be in Jaycee. Since then, I have never questioned getting the vaccination for both of my children and myself. Even though the shot didn't keep her from getting it, I was glad I had at least tried to protect her from it.

In January this year, influenza hit our community hard. I hoped our flu vaccinations would protect us, but it didn't. My son started showing symptoms before bed one night. The next morning, I had him at the doctor's office when it opened. My intentions were to get Jaycee on the preventative dose of Tamiflu, since he did have the virus. On the drive home from the doctor, my father-in-law called to say that Jaycee's breathing was strange. I was home in a flash, and she was struggling. He had started her emergency medications before I got home, but they weren't helping. I threw on her oxygen and transported her to the emergency room. She spent the next 7 days in the hospital on oxygen, cough assist, and getting suctioned as the virus attacked her lungs. Not a fun week- let me tell you.

Here's what I want to say before the flu shot debate starts. If you don't want to get a flu shot, fine. I don't care. I probably wouldn't mess with it if it were not for my daughter. However, if you share an anti-vaccine article on social media, please make sure it is from a reputable source. If you feel it's good, then watch how you word your post. Sharing good information is helpful. I don't think it's wise to criticize others who choose to vaccinate. There are people like me who have a family member in fragile health who can't afford to take the chance.

While some sit and debate on what they should do for their family, I have no doubts. I hope everyone can make their own decisions on this topic and determine if they should share reasons why they are for or against vaccines in a helpful way.

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