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Trisha Torrey

Seatbelts, Condoms, Lottery Tickets and Flu Shots

By January 22, 2013

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I watched a piece on the news a few days ago that focused on college clinics dispensing flu shots to returning students who realize that going back to school, and moving into the dorm, increases their odds of getting the flu.

Smart choice for those college kids.

Yet, most of us adults aren't so smart. We'd rather risk getting sick, missing work, infecting others, spending weeks with that lingering cough and weakness. Sorry, that just makes no sense to me.

Recently, a conversation took place in an online forum about whether it should be mandatory for hospital nurses to get a flu shot, with the goal of protecting their patients. Hospitals across the country have stuck that stake in the ground, and a few nurses have lost their jobs because they refused.

My two cents in the forum was this:

What we know is that most years, the flu shot does a pretty good job of preventing the flu in most patients. This year it seems the odds are about 62% that with a flu shot, I won't get the flu.

Since I have no allergies that I know of (well, OK, except perhaps to my ex-husband) - and have successfully had the flu shot many times before, I like those odds. There is about twice as much chance I won't get the flu than I will get the flu. And if I do get the flu, then I won't be as sick.

Think of those same odds in other aspects of life. If the lottery had those odds, we'd all be buying tickets.

Then I saw this great editorial in the New Yorker called "For God's Sake, Go Get a Flu Shot." For some of you "denialists" - it might change your mind. The entire editorial is worth a read. The author, Michael Specter, gives us a couple of great metaphors:

On Friday, a highly educated, very smart colleague at The New Yorker explained her decision to remain unvaccinated with these words: "I never get a flu shot, and I never get the flu."

O.K. Let's play her game. Turn to whomever you are with and say these sentences out loud: "I never wear seat belts, and I never get killed in car crashes"; "I never use condoms, and I never become infected with sexually transmitted diseases"; "I eat red meat seven times a week, only exercise once a year, and I've never had a heart attack or a stroke."

Officials tell us it's not too late to get the flu shot. Just do it.

If you are still teetering on the edge of "should I? or shouldn't I?" Let's see if these articles help you:

How to Decide Whether to Get a Flu Shot

Why Young and Healthy People Need Flu Shots

Seasonal Flu 2013

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Comments
January 24, 2013 at 8:19 pm
(1) gemdiamondintherough says:

Hi Trish,
In general, I do agree with your theory. The problem I have is that there are some people that really have a “good” reason for CHOOSING NOT to take a flu vaccine. What bothers me, is that hospitals are allowed to terminate employees, for this . You do not have to share all your medical history with your employer, and you should be able to sign a wavier, if that is your choice,after making an informed decision.
At one point my Dr. offered me a medication for a chronic condition that I have, and one of the side effects was increased chance of infection. REALLY, I worked in the hospital at that time, and did not want to take that risk!!!! I choose not to take the medication and researched other alternatives!
So while we need to be concerned with the “greater good”, we also need to remember that we live in a country where we are supposed to have the liberty to make CHOICES!

January 24, 2013 at 10:56 pm
(2) Jo H. says:

What a great point you make about the odds, Trisha.

Healthcare employees – and nursing home employees, too – are different from other employees by the very nature of their work – it is a given that they are working with a vulnerable population, and therefore should be expected to take every possible precaution not to bring harm to their patients.

It is lovely to talk about individual choice, but what choice does the hospitalized person have when their caregivers end up exposing them to the flu because they refused the flu shot?

January 25, 2013 at 7:17 am
(3) Trisha Torrey says:

And Jo…. that makes me think of another way of looking at this:

I have to wonder if those same hospital employees who invoke the “it’s my body” argument would think it was OK for their patients to smoke in the hospital? That of course, would even put the hospital employee at risk from second-hand smoke.

But – then the patient could argue that it’s his/her body, and they should be able to determine what goes into it (without regard for the people around them.)

Thanks for posting.

January 17, 2014 at 6:33 pm
(4) gemdiamondintherough says:

i am really not trying to be post something divisive. But if you are around all “those” germs, your body builds up immunity to those germs. So, what are the chances, because I have allergies, and may have a poor reaction to the flu shot, that I should not be allowed to make that informed decision??? If the shot is only 62% effective, then that leaves a large margin for error. Not to say that the general public should not take advantage of that option, but that percentage is about the same that the allergist gave me for the accuracy of the serum allergy testing???????
My post simply was that I do not believe someone should lose their job over this?????????? Do I use other vaccines – yes! Their percentages of effectiveness are much greater, to the point, that I feel it is in my best interest. Hope that clears up some of the confusion, I seem to have caused!

January 19, 2014 at 12:58 am
(5) Gloria says:

Trish,
I wonder WHERE you got the data that the flu shot was 62% effective!! Dr. Mercola’s information says that the percentage MIGHT be around 30% or less and another doctor commented that when one is older the effectiveness is closer to 9%.
I personally got the flu shot ONCE about 25 years ago and was never as sick as right after that shot!! I have never gotten the flu shot again — I have autoimmune problems. And as far as I know I have never had the flu since although I did have some kind of bug around Thanksgiving that lasted for about 3 or 4 days — I made sure that my Vitamin D intake was upped and also took lots of Vitamin C. The only effect I noticed was that I lost 4 or 5 pounds (which was only part of what I need to lose). My husband and I thought that it was food poisoning and maybe it was since my daughter and her husband didn’t get sick! (AND didn’t have flu shots and teach at universities).
By the way — did you know that research shows that when there are “blanket” vaccinations — down the road aways there is a 30% increase in the diagnosis of diabetes???

January 19, 2014 at 7:46 am
(6) Trisha Torrey says:

Oh Gloria,

Please… how on earth do you place your trust on someone whose only goal is to sell you the stuff he says and makes? Look at his website… Most of what he says debunks traditional medicine in favor of something HE SELLs – from newsletters to supplements to fitness equipment to products for pets. All he has to do is scare you or tell you something you thought was true, isn’t, and you’ll send him money for the alternative product or information…. what a snow job he does on people!

Follow the Money – that’s the rule no matter whether we are talking about mainstream or traditional or alternative medicine. It doesn’t matter how true or false his information is. Read more about finding credible health information online: http://patients.about.com/od/researchandresources/a/internetcred.htm

I can’t speak to any flu shot you had 25 years ago, but I can tell you that its impossible to assign gastrointestinal problems to a flu shot because that’s not flu. Flu is always upper respiratory. Here’s more:

http://patients.about.com/od/patientempowermentissues/a/stomachflu.htm

If you are allergic or autoimmune, then by all means, you need to rethink the flu shot anyway. The standard advice is not for you.

But don’t base your decision on the advice of a man who has made his living scaring people into buying his products.

Trisha

January 19, 2014 at 9:50 pm
(7) gemdiamondintherough says:

Just as food for thought!!!!!!!
My mom’s oncologist DID NOT want her to take a flu shot. I do not know all the reasoning behind his position, but since her immune system was already having to fight so hard, I assumed that may have been one of the reasons. If your immune function is already in fight mode, I imagine it may be more easily “overcome”. I agree with the comment that as patients they may be exposed. But what about all the people in the grocery store, church, etc. They can perhaps be more of an exposure risk, (grocery carts!). And these people may not be washing their hands as often as needed! Remember to cough into your elbow, also! And if you are sick- stay at home – and do not expose the rest of us!

January 20, 2014 at 11:45 pm
(8) Lynne says:

I have been a nurse for 25 years. I really do not think that my employer should have access to all of my health records. I do not have a communicable disease and I do not go to work when I do. There are many people that do go to work when they are sick. With my medical history and my physicians suggestion, I did not get the flu vaccine. I think that employers should be encouraging and not punishing employees who use sick time if they need to. I have not used a sick day in over a year since I have not had any illnesses that required it. I feel sad that I will soon not be able to continue to do the job that I trained for and have done for so many year. Unfortunately I am not nearly old enough to retire. Obama Care, as flawed as it is, here I come.

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