Tuesday, October 13, 2009

5 Reasons Why I Get My Family Flu Shots

...and why others should consider getting them, too.


FACT: I have a child with an impaired autoimmune system. SOMEWHAT RELATED FACT: He tolerates flu shots well. I believe (and his immunologist concurs) that his annual flu shot minimizes his risk of developing more serious flu complications, complications that could land him in the hospital. Any time that I can avoid an unnecessary stay in a germ-laden waiting room--or worse yet: an emergency room filled with antibiotic-resistant bugs...is absolutely a good thing.

The older my child gets, the better he is able to fight illness (discounting staph aureas and aspergillus which will be life-long problems). However, his disease-fighting system will never be optimal--he will most likely need antibiotic therapy his entire life. It stands to reason, then, that the more people in his community that opt for a flu shot, the lower his chances are of exposure to an illness that is absolutely primed to attack his greatest area of vulnerability, his lungs--ergo: the more time we buy. The longer he goes without an extended illness, the more even his social, emotional, and educational development will be, the better his life outcomes are. These are all mightily beneficial things for him and my family.

FACT: If you vaccinate your child against the flu, against any illness, it benefits my son.

But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that you have not succumbed to the many charms of my younger son. You see flu shots (perhaps all innoculations) as "an unnecessary danger" and so see no reason to potentially jeopardize your loved one for the sake of my loved one. Fair enough. I am primal enough in my love for my child to actually understand that concept.

I need to ask every parent unwilling to vaccinate their child, though: what are you basing that decision upon? Are you basing your decision on a hunch supported by a few possibly-spurious news segments? Or are you basing that decision upon multiple studies done by reputable scientists, published in peer-reviewed journals, providing replicable results? Because, to me, that is the definition of science, ie: the definition of sound decision-making. Those are the game-rules my family is required to play by...

But I digress. Let us assume you do not know anyone with a primary autoimmune disorder--so this argument truly does not resonate with you. You still question the need to vaccinate against the seasonal flu or H1N1. We shall move on, then...


You may not know my son, but perhaps you love someone with a disability. According to the blog Disability Scoop:

Unlike the traditional seasonal flu which targets the elderly and the very young, H1N1 is predominantly affecting children and young adults.

The following groups are at high risk, according to Georgina Peacock, a developmental pediatrician who is co-leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s children’s health team responding to H1N1:

• Children under 2-years-old.

• Individuals with neurologic disorders like epilepsy, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability or developmental delay. This risk is further heightened for those who have multiple disabilities or respiratory problems.

• People who have problems with immune functioning, heart disease or their endocrine system, plus those who have conditions like diabetes or a metabolic disorder.



Did you see former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist last week on Real Time with Bill Maher? I adore Bill Maher. He is prickly and entertaining and fearless and IN THIS CASE DEEPLY FLAWED IN HIS LOGIC. He at one point in this interview accuses Dr. Frist of trying to make his case for vaccination via anectodotal evidence. However, when Dr. Frist brings up a New England Journal of Medicine study that claims that women are nine times more likely to die of H1N1 while pregnant, Maher immediately changes the subject to Bono and Africa. This is the difference between "hard-hitting journalism" and "news as entertainment" in my opinion, but that is a post for another day...

Perhaps you know someone that is pregnant? Or are someone who is pregnant? According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease:

As of Sept. 3, 2009, 6 percent of confirmed fatalities from 2009 H1N1 influenza infection have been pregnant women (note: pregnant women make up less than 1% of the general population), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pregnant women infected with the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus also have a higher rate of hospitalization than the general population.
Essentially, what we are being told is that H1N1 is more dangerous for pregnant women to contract than many other demographics of the population. How do we help and support pregnant woman in this instance? By limiting their exposure to H1N1. By getting flu shots.

Let's expand the sphere of benefit even further, though, and say that:


According to the blog Care2:

Approximately 57 million Americans, 22 million of them women, have no paid sick days. The H1N1 virus is not just a health issue. It is a social and an economic issue. Working parents need options to care for their sick children without the fear of losing their daily wages or perhaps their jobs.

Now this decision to innoculate or no becomes a social issue and a woman's rights issue...interesting, right? There are many sometimes surprising groups benefiting from your decision to receive a flu shot.


And yeah, just in case you didn't already think I was some sort of obsessive nutcase, I offer a quote from everyone's favorite socialist rag, The New Yorker:

In fact, the new H1N1 virus is similar to seasonal flu in its severity. In the United States, influenza regularly ranks among the ten leading causes of death, infecting up to twenty per cent of the population. It kills roughly thirty-five thousand Americans every year and sends hundreds of thousands to the hospital. Even relatively mild pandemics, like those of 1957 and 1968, have been health-care disasters: the first killed two million people and the second a million.

In short: even in a good year, the flu is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Even in a good year, up to 1 of every 5 people in the country will have to take time off from work because they are sick, costing businesses money, filling emergency rooms, disrupting lives, jobs, educations...

1 out of 5. Cross-reference this statistic with the disability community, with single, working and pregnant women, and with the rare people like my son. Now we're starting to talk about real people...people you might know and care about...who are affected by your choice to vaccinate. Are you still comfortable with your choice to avoid vaccination? Are you absolutely sure that your perceived dangers to vaccination are legitimate? Would you bet your child's life on your decision? Because my child's life is potentially on the line.

Now: you can call this post a big, juicy rationalization based on one woman's personal experiences/biases as a mother to a child born with a primary autoimmune disorder. Or...preferably...you can call it a well-reasoned treatise on the near-universal benefits of flu vaccination. (Individuals with egg allergies are excused from this dialog.) Your call. What you cannot do, however, is malign what I perceive as a sound health practice, without expecting me to speak up and defend it.


1 comment:

Joker the Lurcher said...

i totally agree with you - my husband had a kidney transplant a year ago so falls into the immuno-suppressed category; my son is on the autistic spectrum and has an underactive thyroid. when all the fuss about the MMR jabs was going on i researched it pretty carefully and decided to have my son innoculated. i never thought his autism was vaguely connected with it. many of the kids we met through our local autistic society had parents who decided not to have the jabs for them and they still had autism.