17 September 2009

Flu Vaccine?

I am pondering getting flu shots this year for myself and the Cha Cha. I should preface this by saying that I am very pro-vaccination. In a previous life I was going to be an epidemiologist and well, lets just say the advent of vaccine technology was pretty much our second coming. We have all been vaccinated with pretty much everything available (less Hepatitis A for me to be scheduled post baby) and the only other vaccine at which I balked was Varicella (Chicken Pox) for Cha Cha. I did eventually get that one done since it is a requirement for most schools, so fine, I guess they kind of had me there. (My endless debate on whether to try home schooling or not can be saved for another day, but I do not want vaccines to be the deciding factor when there are so many other issues at hand.)

However, we have never had the flu vaccine. I once had dinner with an immunologist who worked on developing the vaccine. She told me it was pretty much “a shot in the dark.” Ditto according to my Infectious Diseases Epidemiology class. (Perhaps a good guess, but a guess none the less.) When there were vaccine shortages, I was always in a population for whom it was less of a need, so I skipped it. As for the toddler, since she stays home with me, she was never in a high risk group either. Plus, she has traditionally responded to rounds of shots with 105F fevers. You caught me, I was willing to gamble that getting the flu would make her less sick than that. Bad mommy alert.

My husband always get the flu vaccine, and has even had vaccinations for diseases that many have never hear of, let alone for which they have been vaccinated. That is the glory of being military. They can, and will, require it and your choice is be a test monkey or don’t get paid. Wonderful.

So here is the deal. For the first time, as a pregnant person, I do fall into a “high risk” category for which the vaccine is strongly recommended. Plus we will have a newborn in the house during the height of flu season, and there are no vaccination options (for flu specifically) for babies under 6 months of age. Add in that this year Cha Cha probably will be in a child-care situation a few days a week via the child watch at our YMCA. While I think relying on herd-immunity is hopelessly irresponsible, with something like the flu, where the shot may not stop one from getting it anyway, is it okay to do so every now and then?

The question is: Do I gamble that the vaccine is as safe/effective as they claim and get us the shots even knowing that it means a few sleepless nights with the toddler and god only knows what kind of reaction in me? Or do I just hole up in the house for the winter, avoid the shots and hope for the best? I really don’t feel like asking my OB since they just seem to love tests and shots and screening and so on to no end. The “if X then Y” pedagogy of western medicine means no one is going to actually discuss it with me, so I guess why bother.

I am leaning towards just getting the darn shots, but something about it all just rubs me the wrong way…. Perhaps I just need to realize that the only way to protect the new baby is to create our own herd immunity in our home by getting us all vaccinated. That should keep us healthy, sort of, kind of, maybe, assuming they pick the “right” flu in advance…this is horrible. Never mind that this angst is over just the regular flu shots, don’t even get me started on the H1N1 vaccination they are pushing on me.


Alicen said...

I understand this flu shot debacle!

First I will say that they HIGHLY suggested (like in I will bring the shot in right now cause you might DIE without it) when I was newly pregnant with Emma because I was pregnant the entire flu season last year and high risk, bad for baby, blah blah blah. Well I never did get it and I was fine. I have never gotten the flu shot actually and really don't intent to although the thought crossed my mind since Emma is "high-risk".

Second, I never got the flu shot with Nathan either and he was born during the height of flu season. Nor did he ever get the vaccine either and we all turned out fine.

He did, however, end up getting it in Feb after his illness. The first time he got it. Turns out my doc is very pro flu shot and we basically weren't leaving there without it.

I have heard of so many people who have gotten the flu shot AND the flu. I almost am more willing to take my chances. I think it would anger me more to know I got the shot and still got the flu. As for Nathan he will probably get it this year and the doctor will really want me to get it but much like you I am on the fence because of Emma. I would hate to get the flu and then pass it to her when she is so young and vulnerable but then again it's no guarantee!

The whole swine flu thing I don't even want to get started on that. I know they've tested and vaccines have come a long way but the last swine flu vaccine killed more people than the illness did. And again will it guarantee that I won't get swine flu? Oh if it weren't for the children the answer would be so clear cut!

About Ms. Weires said...

I say wait out the first few weeks of "flu season" see how it hits the cold states and make a choice. You have climate on your side, and wont hit honest-to-blog (personal victory) flu season til novemberish, whilest hometown NY will hit it roughly next week, and you can capitalize on the difference.