Fear and Funnies During our Family Flu Shots
Nov 02, 2012

I did it.  I finally did it.  I got all my kids their flu shots last week, despite the many obstacles we encountered along the way.  While it involved some anticipated anxiety, in the end, enduring humor conquered irrational fear.

For the past few years, we’ve been able to walk into a nearby clinic without an appointment, get the FluMist and within 15 minutes walk out knowing that we were doing our part to help prevent the spread of the flu.

Unfortunately, this year hasn’t been so easy.  Having recently moved, I had to establish new care before a doctor would administer a flu shot for my kids.  Since the earliest appointments I could make were over two months away, I spent September and most of October worried that my children would fall victim to influenza before having the chance to be vaccinated. (This actually happened the last time we moved, when my then 8-year-old daughter fell sick with the flu in September).

At first I figured I could just take the kids to the local pharmacy for their shots.  But then I learned that pharmacies in the state I live in can only vaccinate children over the age of fourteen.  Since four of my five kids fall within that category, I was out of luck.
But last week, our day at the doctor’s had finally come and I was relieved to know that my entire family would soon be vaccinated against the flu.

On the way to the appointment, I was chuckling inside as my seven-year old daughter tried to reassure my sixteen year old daughter who was expressing reservations about the shot.  I heard my own mantra repeated in her words of comfort as she explained, “It’s just a pinch and then it’s over.”

However, my 16-year-old was making her last-ditch attempt to convince me that she didn’t need her flu shot that day.  She was even suggesting that we postpone until later in the season when her friend claimed there would be FluMist vaccine available, thereby avoiding the need for a shot in favor of a sniff.  Of course, she knew it was hopeless, as I would never be persuaded by the suggestion that her 16-year-old friend was well-informed regarding the details of the vaccine supply in our area.  But I have to give her credit for her creative persistence.

While the comedy/drama ensued, my second oldest child sat there in silence, suffering with a stomach virus that came on suddenly the night prior.  She is extremely afraid of needles and I’m fairly certain that she was secretly relieved that the timing of her illness would most likely result in the postponement of her flu shot.  Looking back, it’s a good thing that her symptoms didn’t come on in the hours after her shot, for certainly that would have been reason for some seriously misguided individuals to believe that the flu shot can actually make you sick (while the informed person knows that the symptoms of the flu vary greatly from that of a stomach virus and that the flu shot can’t possibly give you the flu).

Moments later we literally burst through the door at the doctor’s office.  The truth is, it’s hard to sneak in under the radar when you arrive somewhere with five chatty girls.   We quickly got acquainted with the staff, the nurse and ultimately the doctor and while there was lots of joking and laughing, I knew that just beneath the giggles my kids were also exhibiting a bit of nervous anxiety.
After the exams, the nurse questioned who would be the first to get their flu shot.    My brave 7-year-old quickly volunteered, repeating my mantra that it would just be a little pinch.  However, as the nurse prepared the vaccine, my daughter caught a glimpse of what I’ll admit was the biggest needle I had ever seen.  At that moment she was big eyed and couldn’t stop staring at the needle.  As we encouraged her not to watch, she gazed at me with a surprised look on her face and an innocent exclamation of

“Oh boy!  Here is goes.”

It was then that I decided to distract her with some photos and before long her apprehension turned into pride as she made her “strong” poses for the camera and declared,

“That didn’t hurt one bit!”

Next up was my oldest daughter, and I suspect her sisters were surprised to see her hesitation as well.  This is the little girl who was trampled by a horse at six years old and jumped right back in the saddle.  This is the pre-teen who all but laughed when she busted her chin on the ice and had to get 15 stitches in her chin.  This was the young lady who has endured more bumps, bruises, slide tackles and injuries through ten years of travel soccer than I care to remember.  Yet, in this moment – in anticipation of the pain of this shot – she was obviously reluctant and fearful.
And then, we were all surprised at what happened next.  As her sick sister started to video tape the scene in an attempt to catch her older sister crying and begging for mercy, we instead heard these words of comfort,

“Oh, that doesn’t even hurt at all.  It’s weird though.  I would have expected it to hurt so much more.”

One by one they each took their turn.  And two days later, once my daughter had recovered from her stomach virus, she too received her flu shot without uttering a sound or shedding a single tear.
It just goes to show that sometimes our fears are irrational.  But we are stronger (and remain healthier) once these fears are overcome. 

If you haven’t had your family vaccinated yet, don’t let fear stand in your way.    Check out the Flu.gov page to locate flu vaccines for your family and do it today.  After all, my daughter will be the first to tell you that

“it’s just a pinch and then it’s over”. 


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NOTE: A version of this content originally appeared in Vaccinate Your Family’s Immunization Alerts eNewsletter, sent out on Friday, August 13, 2021. Stay up to date on the latest vaccine news by subscribing here....

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