Friday Flu Shot: Personal Experience
Oct 07, 2011

October marks the official start of influenza season.  To  highlight the dangers of the flu and the benefits of vaccination, I plan to incorporate a new feature called “Friday Flu Shots” throughout the course of the next few months.

Today’s Friday Flu Shot focuses on personal experiences.

Just last week I was chatting with a neighbor at the bus stop.  She was talking about the health problems of her asthmatic son.  When I casually asked if she had gotten him his flu shot yet, she matter-of-factly explained that her husband had the shot once before and then he got really sick with the flu.  Somehow that “experience” has since kept all three of her children, as well as herself and her husband, from getting an influenza vaccine each year.
Now, I can’t say that I was surprised by her responses.  Unfortunately, I’ve heard these similar objections before.  As well as many others.
To be honest, if people are looking for a reason NOT to vaccinate for the flu, there are plenty of excuses to be used.

There are those that say,

“I survived the flu before, so why should I bother being vaccinated.”

Or others who claim,

“I’ve never gotten the flu before, so I don’t see why I would need to get the vaccine.”

Of course, there will always be a few who say,

“I got the flu shot once before and it gave me the flu.”

Then there are those who mistakenly believe,

“Healthy people don’t die from the flu.  I’ll just take my vitamins and I’ll be fine.”

Typically, I try to respond in a caring way; sensitive to the fact that no one appreciates being criticized or questioned.  I do my best to acknowledging their objections, yet I still find a way to suggest that the information that they are basing their decision on is often misunderstood or inaccurate.  In this particular conversation with my neighbor, I first addressed the health concern of her asthmatic son, who could suffer greatly if he were to fall ill with the flu.  I did my best to explain how the flu shot would not have been responsible for her husband getting the flu, and I offered her specific resources that she could visit to verify the scientific explanation of this.  With each attempt I made to suggest the importance of vaccination, she had yet another objection.  (“It’s so hard to get all the kids to the doctor,” and “Besides, my husband is always leery of something that the government wants to force you to do.”)
Don’t get me wrong.  It was a very friendly conversation.  However, I wasn’t sure I was really making a difference in her opinions.
However, as we began to part ways and the conversation was drawing to a close, I happened to mention a personal experience, where a personal friend had died from the flu.  He was a healthy, vibrant and active Marine, in his early 30s, married only a few short years and enjoying being a new dad.  Sadly, the flu came upon him suddenly.  He fell into a coma and died within about 72 hours of the onset of his illness.
This one story…this touching account of a life lost too soon…seemed to sway her just a bit.  Rather than apologetically offering excuses as to why they wouldn’t vaccinate, she began to ask me questions.
What I found most interesting about that conversation was that sometimes, something you say can make a difference when you least expect it.  To be honest, I almost didn’t share that story, concerned it was too anecdotal to make an impact.  But the truth is, no one wants to see bad things happen.  Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we can do something that can help prevent bad things.  And sometimes, reminders from parents like Amanda’s mom and dad in this video featured by Shot by Shot and produced in conjunction with Families Fighting Flu,  will help to remind us of the potential dangers of the flu and the importance of flu vaccination.
If you have a personal story about someone who has suffered with the flu, feel free to share it in the comments below.  Perhaps you have treated or cared for someone with the flu.  Perhaps you too have known the pain of losing someone you love to influenza.  We encourage you to share your stories so that others may know that the flu is a serious illness and be reminded to get vaccinated today.

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