TGIF: Seriously Rethinking the Flu Shot

November 15, 2013

Despite the fact that I published two posts this week, I actually wrote zero (thank goodness for inspiration on airplanes). From Saturday – Wednesday, I barely peeled myself off the couch, because I had the freaking flu – again! It started with sore muscles and a sore throat, turned into sore skin and a fever, and is slowly finishing with a nasty cough, the “sexy” sick voice and plugged ears. Good times, I tell ya (and not exactly how I wanted to spend my first weekend in Victoria).

Getting sick again got me thinking about my stance on the flu shot. I’ll be honest: I don’t get them – ever. I think it’s really weird to inject something into your body that hasn’t been tested to see how it will affect you 20, 40 or 60 years down the line. Am I nuts? Maybe! But getting the flu twice in two months certainly got me thinking. Maybe I should start getting the flu shot. Do you!? Why or why not? I’d love your thoughts on this.

The low of my week was missing all of my coffee dates and my hair appointment on the weekend. Curse you, flu!

The high of my week was getting paired up with my high school mentee through the YWCA Metro Vancouver’s High School Mentorship program. I can’t wait to meet her later this month!

A blog post I loved was Why I Won’t Be Home for the Holidays – congrats Jess! I also loved A Peek Inside the Writer’s Room, because who wouldn’t love to try writing for a TV show!?

The best money I spent was $0. I didn’t leave the house, remember?

My plans this weekend include going up island to visit friends, getting my hair done (for real this time) and helping my girlfriend register for wedding gifts! Fun!

How was your week? What are you up to this weekend?

  • catherine November 15, 2013 at 4:37 am

    I’ve only had the honest-to-God flu once in my life and thought I was going to die. I was so sore I couldn’t cough which led to a lung infection as well. I do get the flu shot (though haven’t this yr ywt). I work in a highly contageous field and deal with close proximity to breath/saliva and blood (thus denistry having the highest risk healthcare job-no joke). I have a diabetic husband and an infant at home who can’t afford to get the flu (I could) so I do it for them, not me. I am generally pro-vaccines period though (respecting those who are not).

    Hope you feel better soon!!!

  • Travis @debtchronicles November 15, 2013 at 4:41 am

    All Pizels get their flu shot on…..I usually get mine because they’re offered at my workplace and I always happen to walk through the area where they do it at the right time. I hate being sick (who doesn’t?), so I figure anything that reduces my chances of coming down with something in any way, shape, or form is worth it.

  • Jordann November 15, 2013 at 4:56 am

    The flu SUCKS! I was sick all last Christmas (including Christmas day) and it was the worst. That said, I don’t get the flu shot because I’m not weak, old or imune-compromised, and neither is anyone in my immediate family. I also don’t work with the public so I’m unlikely to contract the flu/infect anyone before I know I’m sick.

    Getting a flu shot has never been part of my family “culture” so it’s never really crossed my mind to get one.

    Glad you’re feeling better.

  • dojo November 15, 2013 at 4:59 am

    I took the flu shot once, years ago. And had such a horrible case of the flu that season that I thought I’d die :D

    So no, I don’t take any shots anymore. If I ‘catch’ something, that’s it. Being pregnant, I’m a real ‘catcher’, as my immune system is weakened by the pregnancy. Caught a cold 2 times in 3 weeks, but it was OK.

    Get well soon :)

  • Stacey November 15, 2013 at 5:34 am

    My three boys (5,3 and 1) and I don’t get the flu shot, but my husband does. He’s dealing with the public as a volunteer firefighter and it just makes sense for him. The way we figure it, if there’s a pandemic, he needs to be protected. We are kind of on the fence about the boys, with them being in school and daycare, it’s a subject we revisit annually. At this time we feel that they are just as likely to get a flu strain not covered by the vaccine so the benefit to the vaccine isn’t yet high enough to make sense for us.
    No one likes being sick, but getting the flu shot doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick. So for us, we evaluate on a person by person basis each year.

  • Elizabeth November 15, 2013 at 5:45 am

    What makes you think that they haven’t been tested in the long term? Vaccines have been around since 1952. Besides you are being injected with only part of the flu virus as oppose to catching the real live virus. I think it’s pretty safe to say that the risk of having part of the (dead) virus in your body is less dangerous long and short term compared to having the whole live virus.

    • Cait November 15, 2013 at 7:58 am

      Because they say the flu shot is changed every year, based on whatever viruses they think will be most prevalent. I dunno, I’m all for regular vaccines that you give your kids and get before you travel to certain locations… I just haven’t been a fan of “optional” vaccinations, probably since the HPV shot came around and they kept changing their stance on who could or could not get it.

    • Beth November 19, 2013 at 4:56 am

      Vaccines have been around for a long time, yes, but they aren’t identical. Just because the polio vaccine has been used safely for decades doesn’t mean that the HPV and flu vaccines are automatically safe.

      I’m on the fence about flu shots. I react to them so I don’t get them, other people should do what’s best for them.

      • Elizabeth November 19, 2013 at 5:07 am

        The virus or virus proteins which are in the vaccine will change with each new vaccine, however the method of constructing them and the base liquid remain fairly consistent.

  • Looby November 15, 2013 at 6:51 am

    I’m with Elizabeth and Catherine- very pro-vaccine. I get the flu shot every year, technically because I have auto-immune conditions and work on a hospital campus, but I think I’d get it anyway.

    I’ve noticed lots more employers are offering free shots this year- even my healthy as a horse OH got his this year without prompting- he had a mild flu a few years ago and it was enough for him!

  • kelly November 15, 2013 at 6:55 am

    I admit it i use to never get the flu shot mostly because it took time away from my jam packed schedule to go c dr and then pay co-pay and for years i didn’t ever put it into the budget…I am a relatively healthy person anyway so i never thought about it…well then I developed exercise induced asthma….NOW its IMPERATIVE i get a flu shot…the first year i scoffed and got sick..i wont say it was the flu..BUT i had a sinus infection that i could not shake for about 3 months straight…my dr told me that not only for my personal safety but for the health and well-being of my kids i need to get myself healthy..STAY that way as well as make sure my kids all understand the benefits of keep your self healthy….meaning WE ALL GET FLU SHOTS….so now as much as i HATE making the appts….making sure i have the $$ budgeted starting in September…I get flu shots for myself and my three kids…and surprisingly…or maybe not… we ALL have not gotten the “flu” in 3 yrs.

  • Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial November 15, 2013 at 7:28 am

    I hope you’re feeling better now! I personally have never gotten a flu shot.. but I’ve also never had the flu. It’s just not something my mom ever took me in for when I was little, and not getting one has sort of become a habit (I like how Jordann put it – it was just never part of my family culture, either!)

  • Morgaine November 15, 2013 at 7:35 am

    I haven’t gotten the flu shot in years. The last 2 years that I did get them I got a horrible flu afterwards! So, the third year I decided not to get one and guess what? I didn’t get the flu! Its probably been about 8 years since my last one and I haven’t had the flu since. Yes, I’ve had bad colds and even sinus infections but no flu. (Knock on wood).

    You probably need to boost your immune system. I would do that rather than get the shot, if you don’t and get the shot you’re even more likely to get the flu again.

  • Budget and the Beach November 15, 2013 at 7:38 am

    I always get the flu shot because it’s just a little extra added protection. I don’t get sick time so if I’m down and out and can’t work then it costs me a lot of money. Glad you’re starting to feel better! Thanks so much for mentioning my post!

  • Desiree November 15, 2013 at 7:55 am

    I absolutely get the flu shot. I get it because I care about the people around me whose health is more fragile than mine. I get it because vaccines save lives. I get it because getting the flu shot IS a way of boosting your immune system. It’s getting it revved up to fight in case in actually does encounter the flu.

  • Deena Dollars November 15, 2013 at 7:59 am

    I always get the flu shot. It’s cheap, takes 10 minutes, and being down with the flu means at least 3-4 days of being pretty much non-functional. The cost-benefit analysis on that one seems like a no-brainer.

    In terms of safety, I agree with the commenter above that said we’ve had vaccines a long time. It’s part of a virus being injected into you to build up your immunity so that you don’t have to get full-on sick to develop that immunity. I don’t really see the problem with that. Perhaps there are things I’m unaware of? If so, I’d love to be pointed to some credible resources.

    The reason we need a new flu shot every year is because the virus mutates. So people’s stories about “I got the flu shot and still got the flu that year!” make sense, because you can catch a strain of the flu that hasn’t been accounted for by the shot. And OF COURSE you can not have a flu shot and not get the flu. This is not *proof* that the flu shot does not work. I generally don’t put sway in anecdotal evidence when statistical evidence exists.

    The flu shot is not a 100% guarantee against catching some other strain of it, but it reduces your chances significantly and costs very little in time and money, so I don’t know why people wouldn’t do it.

    …and don’t get me started on the public health aspect of this. Even if I want to lay in bed for 3 days feeling like I’m going to die, do I really want to pass my germs to someone else who may not have gotten a shot for whatever reason?

    Sorry. Ranty, I know. For serious though, I’m glad you’re feeling better!

    • Beth November 19, 2013 at 4:45 am

      Good points, but one thing people forget is that vaccines are not 100% effective, especially for adults. As we age, our immune systems are less responsive. Google immunosenescence.

      There’s also a big difference in the effectiveness o a vaccine for a bacteria and a vaccine or a virus. (I don’t have a source to point you to right now — my friend took biotech in university so I learned more than I ever wanted to know from her!) Some doctors also advocate a pneumonia vaccine in addition to a flu shot for older adults because it’s often pneumonia as the result of a flu that kills people.

      • Janna November 21, 2013 at 11:37 am

        Vaccines do not have bacteria. Vaccines protect against viral strains of infectious disease only. The meningococcal vaccine protects only against invasive viral meningitis, not bacterial. The high dose flu vaccine is shown much more effective at producing immunity in people 65 and older who may have a lesser response to the other flu vaccines due to aging and weakened immune systems/medications/underlying medical conditions. – Your Vaccine For Children Coordinator

  • Bette November 15, 2013 at 8:01 am

    You should ALWAYS get your flu shot for reasons no one has yet mentioned — the immunization builds your immunity over the course of a lifetime. Even if new strains emerge, they often build upon/mutate from current strains — each building block of protection can save your life during a pandemic. Therefore, even if you get the shot AND get the flu, you’re dealing with different strains — no shot can protect against all, just the most common/most likely to hit this year. Each exposure allows your body to build resistance to the different strains.

    Protect your future life — get your shot every single year w/o fail.

  • Rob November 15, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Sorry to see that you’re under the weather, Cait. Hope you’re now over the worst of it.

    Every year my wife and her mom (who’se going on 94 soon) get the flu shot – “just to be safe”. I never do. Since getting their flu shots two weeks ago my wife has come down with a bad cold (and still has it). Her mom is healthy as a horse (but don’t tell her that I used those words – lol). I (of course) am healthy as a horse as well. For what it’s worth! :-)

  • Bet Crooks November 15, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Most years my husband and I get the flu shot. When the children were young they also got theirs annually. We have elderly relatives, though, and we don’t want to risk bringing them anything. It also helps stop the cycle of transmission if enough people get the shot. (See herd immunity.)

    In the meantime, as someone else already said, you may want to check into everything you can do to improve your immune system, from eating and sleeping well, to taking a Vitamin D supplement if your Dr. approves.

    There’s no point in getting the flu shot, btw, if you’ve already had the flu.

  • Aaron November 15, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I’m with you on this Cait. It’s a very odd vaccine – and it actually doesn’t fully prevent you from getting the flu. You can still get it. I have a family member who works in social work and has seen cases where perfectly healthy people all of a sudden get seriously ill – to the point of permanent disability – after getting the flu shot.

    No thanks.

  • psychsarah November 15, 2013 at 9:19 am

    I’m fairly anti-flu shot myself. I figure even if takes me out for a few days, I can still fight it, so why put extra chemicals in my body. I’m all for vaccinations for stuff that can really kill you or cause serious morbidity (e.g., polio).

    The week was crazy busy, and I’m planning a weekend of nesting :) I have lots to do before baby #2 arrives in January, and last week was a write-off because the three of us had the plague (gastro, not flu). Looking forward to checking things off of my to-do list-I’m nerdy that way.

  • Nadia November 15, 2013 at 9:32 am

    I have found that in years where I don’t get the flu shot I get sick.

    So I get the flu shot. It’s free and with pharmacists (at least here in Alberta) able to dispense them it’s readily accessible.

    I went to Shopper’s on Wednesday and had it done. My arm was sore and I felt tired and achy yesterday but a little crappiness now is better than being really sick later.

  • Cassie November 15, 2013 at 10:28 am

    I’m pretty wishy washy when it comes to getting the flu shot, but I am signed up to get it at work this year.


    Because my boyfriend came down with a bad case of pneumonia over the summer. The summer! Who catches pneumonia in the summer? Apparently he did, and he had a heck of a time battling it. Once you get it it’s easier to get it again, and it’s much harder to fight it during he winter. I’m generally pretty healthy, but I work with a lot of people, and a lot of those people have kids. The fewer infections I catch the fewer he’ll be exposed to.

    I recognize that I’ll probably feel like crap the week after getting it, but that’s different than actually getting the flu. Your body needs to develop antibodies to the (dead) virus they inject you with, and it knocks the wind out of you. Not to say that you can’t get a different strain of virus and actually have the flu after getting the shot, but a lot of people mistake the run down feeling with actually being sick.

  • Bridget November 15, 2013 at 11:35 am

    I’M SORRY! I know it was me that gave it to you lol

    This is my first flu. I never get the flu shot but I think I might from now on. This was awful — I’m still coughing =(

    • Cait November 16, 2013 at 9:22 pm

      Friends OFF.

      Kidding! I’m all better now, minus the cough. It never stops…

  • Sarah November 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I think for the average, healthy person, they’re not really necessary, unless you come into contact with vulnerable people. I’ve had one every year for a long time, but that’s only due to my occupation. If it wasn’t required for work, I wouldn’t bother. I think it’s much more beneficial for everyone to engage in behaviours which will increase their overall health and improve their immune systems. Stress reduction is number one on my list… stress takes a huge toll on our overall health and immune system!

  • Elizabeth November 16, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Fascinating — there is a LOT of misinformation and pseudo-science in the comments here. Reading these comments reminds me of the uphill battle public health officials face.

    The worst, honestly, is the comment, “I’m all for vaccinations for stuff that can really kill you.” This reader needs to familiarize herself with the 1918 influenza pandemic.

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses November 16, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    I’m also not a big fan of flu shots, mainly because I’m a baby and don’t like shots. Thanks for the mention!

  • munchkin November 17, 2013 at 8:19 am

    I don’t get the flu shot. In my opinion, the average healthy person doesn’t need it. Personally, I don’t get sick often and I’m not the type to catch whatever is going around. I might get a bit of a cold for a couple days and thats about it. I just feel for my personally its unnecessary. For other people who have weakened immune systems, I’m all for it.

  • TeacHer November 17, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    It’s really disturbing to me that some of the commenters here are pregnant and still not getting a flu shot – getting the flu while you’re pregnant can kill you, so it’s seriously irresponsible to ignore doctor’s orders on this one. And if the doctor didn’t order a flu shot, it’s time to get a new doctor.

    Anyway….I get a flu shot every year, and I have no worries about safety. I know it’s not 100% effective, but I come into contact with so many people every day, I’ll take whatever protection I can get.

  • canadianbudgetbinder November 17, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    I’ve never gotten the flu shot since moving to Canada as it wasn’t something we got in the UK and so far hasn’t been needed. The past week has been super busy for me being out of town for work and training and it’s going to be happening all over again soon. The best part is that I have amazing fans who keep CBB going when I’m not around. Team effort! Have a good one Cait. Mr.CBB

  • Chad November 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    I always get the flu shot. I started when I worked in a school and was offered it for free and have continued to get it.

  • Shannon November 19, 2013 at 7:10 am

    I really am not a fan of the flu vaccine. I’ve done some research on it, and it just seems safer not to get it. I had to get it this year because I work in a hospital and it was made mandatory, if we didn’t get it, they would take it as our voluntary resignation. That didn’t help me want to get it. I never get sick.. however, I got the flu shot the last week of October and haven’t been well since. I seem to be catching everything that’s going around, and that is so unlike me. I’ve read (Biology and scientific articles written by Doctors and Scientists) that even though it raises your antibodies towards certain strains of influenza, it tends to decrease your immunity to other viruses going around, and in the long run, will keep you sicker than if you allowed your bodies own natural defense system to make it’s own antibodies. God made our bodies amazing. Healthy eating, washing hands, good sleep… I think that’s a better “flu vaccine”.

  • Lisa E. November 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Personally, I don’t get the flu shot. Not that I think it’s bad for you or anything (I actually don’t know too much about it), but because I don’t think it’s necessary for me. I rarely get sick, but when I do, it’s the worst! But since it happens so rarely, I don’t think I need to prevent it.

  • A November 20, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I believe we talked a little bit about this when J & I were visiting you! We are pro-flu shot (and vaccinations) all the way. I have never had the flu (phew!) but still get my shot every year. It’s free on my health insurance plan. J’s workplace actually brings a nurse in so he can just get the shot right at work. I have to walk 4 whole blocks to the pharmacy :]

  • celeste November 29, 2013 at 4:27 am

    Wow! What a big debate!

    I have gotten a few flu shots over the years because the doctors push them so bad when your in the office during that time of year.

    I’m not a flu shot kind of gal. Injecting myself unnecessarily with things for my body to fight off is not something I think is good for me.

    This year on top of our debt, we’ve taken a whole new approach to food and medications and all that means less chemicals, no fillers and not genetically modified organisms. IF the FDA has a say about what’s in my food or drugs, they usually have no clue about what’s really in the product…it’s about who has the biggest wallet.