Afternoon Inquisition

AI: A Round of Shots!

The last few weeks have been brutal. BRUTAL. My son got a cold. Then he gave it to my daughter. Who then ended up in the hospital with asthma complications from a cold. Almost died. From a cold. So I got to hang out with her for a week, in a place that had no MSNBC or Comedy Central. It was so awful. And I wasn’t allowed to leave.

But then my parents bought a Wii for my husband and me the kids, and it was like it was all worth it.

And while we were Mario Karting our lives away, some jerk at my son’s school gave him pneumonia. Pneumonia. A 5 year old. In September. HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN? Pneumonia is what old people get in December and then ruin Christmas for the grandkids and then get to be all “No, enjoy Christmas without me… I’ll be fine… all alone… not breathing here in the sterile ICU with the medical staff who are very kind strangers. If I’m lonely, I’ll just hit the nurse button. I’m sure she’ll bring me presents and joyful laughter.”

I’m still trying to weigh which is the worst part of having a 5 year old with pneumonia… that he’s sick and, as his parent, you feel all helpless and bad that he’s hurting or the fact that I had to keep him at home with me every day for over a week. Bored and sick kids are probably the most annoying people on earth. Actually, even without the sick, bored kids are a special karmic punishment. This is why school exists. So I can pay someone to get me some quality alone drinking time. I had my choice: a new luxury car and a second apartment or preschool. I chose preschool. Little did I know they’d have other kids there, who have disgusting germs, who would pass those germs on to my kid and leave me without a luxury car and second apartment to escape to when my kids can’t go to school.

Oh, and speaking of no luxury car… my regular not-so-luxurious car was rear ended. So I’ve also been dealing with insurance companies who want to talk to me about my accident, extensively, while my kids are running around infecting each other’s lungs with horrible things and I’m just trying to avoid going back to that Jon-Stewart-free hospital cell. Though, we did get to ride in an ambulance when my daughter ate an onion ring she turned out to be  allergic to… and almost died… again… so I guess we had that to break up some of the boredom.

And the second my son was finally able to go back to school? BAM! FLU! Barfing everywhere. Starting with the inside of my not-so-luxurious banged-up car… but then moving on to my bed, couch, floor.

Finally, yesterday, in September’s fucked up idea of an encore, I caught vomit-fever. Now, you’d think not having a stomach (because I actually do not have a stomach) would be an advantage when it comes to endurance puking. Turns out, not so much. It’s far more awful than you could imagine. Really. Imagine barf-flu. Then imagine it worse. Then imagine it worse than that. That’s what it’s like. Like being murdered by finger handcuffs, inside your body, and filled with bile.

So…. after all that, I’m here to tell you to get your damn flu shots. They probably won’t prevent car accidents, but they will help reduce the amount of time my daughter spends in the hospital with asthma complications. And it can help prevent my son from getting flu complications leading to pneumonia. And it can help the kids at my kid’s school not get sick and not get him sick and not have to be home annoying me. And it can stop me from getting barfy again. I do not want that.

Most people think that the flu shot is an inconvenience for an inconvenient ailment. But for real, it could kill my daughter. Or me. Or, actually, you. Remember the swine flu? Healthy teenagers dropping dead? Because the flu is no damn joke. And while the Mofo-Anders family are, in fact, vaccinated against the flu, that won’t always prevent it from infecting us if we are exposed. What will stop us from getting infected is not coming into contact with people who are infected. The best way to do that? Vaccinate all the people. That means you.

Did you get your flu shot? Do you get your flu shot every year? Why not? Is your excuse a good one? Think again. Is it a good one? And while we’re talking about flu shots, have you gotten your pertussis (Tdap)? Why not? Is your excuse a good one? Think again. Is it a good one? If my family gets sick one more time this year, I’m coming after all you mother fuckers who don’t have your shots. So your excuse better seriously be a good one. If it is, I’ll buy us a round of real boozy shots. Lord knows I need some.

Randi <3’s Hug Me!

image courtesy Jamie Bernstein, used with permission

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.



Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. Sorry to be a pedant, but did you confirm which kind of pneumonia your kid had. Isn’t the bacterial kind the most common and almost entirely not contagious?

  2. I get mine tomorrow morning, my workplace is giving them free of charge, Yay! My daughter is getting one at the campus health office flu clinic and I have to convince my husband to go to his health plan to get his.. its easy walking distance from his work and free so he has no excuses and I can out reason him on this one, no problem.

  3. “My son got a cold. Then he gave it to my daughter. Who then ended up in the hospital with asthma complications from a cold.”

    “They probably won’t prevent car accidents, but they will help reduce the amount of time my daughter spends in the hospital with asthma complications.”

    I have a hard time putting these together. Does the flu vaccine help with colds?

  4. Yup, I’ll be getting mine at my company’s flu shot clinic later this month. I get one every year -of late, because I didn’t want to give anything to my cancer-ridden mother or my very young nieces and nephews. I could get the flu without any complications, probably, but the odds are not so great for the very young, the very old, or the very sick. And really, I’d rather not get the flu myself, either. So, yup. Jabs all around!!

  5. I’ve never gotten a flu shot. I am not scared of needles. I am just scare out of my mind about getting a flu shot and possible side effects. I’m one of those people who always gets SOME sort of side effect from every medication she’s ever been on, so it just freaks me out a bit.

    I wish I could get over my fear, because I know it’s a good thing to do. I have Fibromyalgia and I am sure the aches from flu along with FM would be absolutely horrific.

    I can even get one from CVS for free with my insurance coverage. Someone help talk me into it!

    1. Well… I think you said it: “… the aches from flu along with FM would be absolutely horrific.”

      Talk to your doctor about the side effects of your immunization. Typically the side effects of the flu shot come from allergies, and this year’s vaccine comes with a dose of swine flu. So if you already got an H1N1 vax, then your arm may hurt a little more and a little longer because (my understanding is) your body is already prepared to fight that virus. So it’s proof your vax is working! But you won’t have that because you’ve never had a flu shot in the first place. So, arguably, fewer side effects for you!

      Also, keep in mind, that the flu shot changes every year. So when you’re vaccinated against a flu strain now, you would be protected against that flu if it comes back around later. Which can be helpful if your FM worsens as you age… or if you become more susceptible to disease in the future.

  6. My company hosts Flu Clinics every year and shots are free if you have company insurance or a small charge if you don’t. Also our insurance company rewards us for getting flu shots (just like they do for getting a yearly physical).

    So every year I get my shot happily. I haven’t really noticed a difference. Some years I glide by with no illness and others I can’t seem to get over a cold or flu. But still, I feel like I’m making the effort to be healthier and keep those around me healthier.

  7. In Mx vaccines are free esp for small children, when they are born you have to take them in a government’s facility and they’ll give you some sort of passport-looking booklet with all the vaccines they need up until they are 14.
    I’m amazed how us, a third world country, are more worried about getting all children vaccinated than most countries (the gov also runs campaigns at schools to make sure all children are vaccinated).
    Anyway, since my kid doesn’t attend school yet, I was watching some commercials about the campaign about to get started and how you can either take them to your nearest public hospital and etc. and remembered I had to take him for his shots but within a few days I just forgot about it.
    Until last night. I had a horrible dream about my child being extremely ill and the dr said something about me being an irresponsible parent for not getting him vaccinated (once awake, I remembered I saw a commercial last night about the school’s campaign getting started).
    First thing this morning, I found his booklet and I’m taking him tomorrow morning to get his shots. This post is a good reminder why he needs to be up to date with his vaccines (and us too)! It doesn’t only save his life, but potentially other people’s lives!

  8. Three years ago my father was going to Africa and the travel company insisted that he had to have the Yellow Fever vaccine. This vaccine is different from most in that it uses live virus and there is a very small chance , about 1 in 6 million, of contracting the disease. Well dad hit the lottery and was one of eight people to get the disease, and the second to survive. For the time being his doctors feel that he shouldn’t get the flu vaccine as they are unsure about his immune system so my whole family gets the shot for herd immunity.

  9. I get a flu shot – I had a bad case of flu once and that was enough to convince me forever.

    Additionally, one of my dearest friends is immunocompromised so I get the flu shot so that I am unlikely to have a mild case or no symptoms… and make her sick and have to be hospitalized.

    Plus, my mum is retired, but as a retired RN/BN she has once again signed up to work at the immunization clinics and I am so proud of her feeling so strongly about the benefits of immunization that she gets in there and pokes people all day :) (I gave her a necklace from Surly Amy’s store – Science Saves Lives – to celebrate her new job).

  10. Elyse, I vividly remember when our kids started preschool they brought home every disease under the sun for about a year. I recall colds, flu, and the worst gastro ever.

    I think most parents go through this and it’s pretty grueling but it does end once their immunity builds up.

    Grandchildren, similar, though we were spared some of it by distance. “Worst gastro ever” turned out to be a cakewalk compared to Norovirus! Super infectious, takes out whole cruise ships.

    Stupid mother in law took grandson to visit someone in a nursing home where there was an outbreak! My wife and I were shitting and puking for a whole week.

    I recall taking my poo sample to a rival lab to get tested, in the hopes it might take out the opposition, LOL. No such luck.

    At work, it is mandatory to have vaccination against 5 items including Hep B, pertussis, MMR. Not only do they keep records but they check your titres for you in case you need a booster. I always get a flu shot cos that’s free too.

    Whenever we go O/S we do whatever is recommended such as cholera, Hep A etc.

    I can’t believe that there are people who oppose vaccination.

    Not only did I sign your petition, but I forwarded it to two young Pathologists at work so they knew about the problem and the pushback you were doing. I made sure both signed as well.

    Thanks for everything you do, hope you get well soon!

  11. I haven’t got my flu shot. In fact, I’ve never had a flu shot. I don’t have a good reason – I’m just very bad at getting myself to the doctor when there isnt something immediately and dramatically wrong (like half my face having suddenly become inexplicably paralysed sort of thing – I think that was the reason for my last visit to the doctor – in 2010).

    I do, however, have a pertussis immunisation that should still be good. I think it was one of the things I got a shot for when I went travelling a few years back. I’m also immunised against typhoid, cholera and a few tropical diseases, I believe.

  12. Holy FSM! I thought our first year of preschool was awful, but no one almost died… except me, every other week when I had to keep my son home from school AGAIN to avoid spreading nasties to his classmates. The very kids who infected him in the first place. Anecdotally, after this first-year hell subsequent years should not be quite so sickly. Hopefully. Again, Jeebus.

    Can I throw in a dis to the parents who don’t keep their obviously sick kids home? I realize this speaks to meta issues of wages, work conditions, societal ills, family structure, lack of social safety nets, lack of good sick-childcare options, etc. However, when I tend to err on the side of hyper-vigilance and avoid being responsible for index cases of anything, it’s discouraging to watch other parents bring sick kids to school.

    In answer to your AI, yes, and yes. Kids are due for the vaccine in a week at a checkup, and my Trophy Husband’s office brings in public health people to vaccinate everyone.

    1. First year? HA! This is our THIRD year of preschool.

      And I have to admit that a few times, my husband has had to convince ME to keep Moose home when he’s been sick. You know, me, the lady walking around telling everyone not to infect other people with diseases… I tend to be like “but this is about meeeeeee and I don’t want kids here today. I was going to watch porn and swear on the internet.” I can’t even imagine how hard it is to keep your kid home when you don’t really have the option to take the day off of work.

      1. Third year?! Are you telling me that we could relive the illness cycle of that awful first year again?! That the first year wasn’t somehow magically immunity-enhancing and kids aren’t likely to get that sick again? We don’t even have Wii…Holy balls…..

        And I agree about working-outside-the-home parents and sick kids. I don’t know how they pull it off under normal, healthy circumstances let alone when a child is ill. It still makes me grouchy though, especially if it’s a stay-home parent situation or someone who has a flexible work schedule and is saving vacation time or something. That said, I do think there can be extenuating circumstances when, say, a mom battling cancer can and probably should send a sick (stomach virus excluded!) kiddo to school. The risk/benefit in that scenario is skewed in favor of the cancer survivor mom, IMO.

  13. Got mine on Friday, and I get it every year because I have asthma. I’ve had a cold for the last couple of days, and even though it’s mild I can already feel it affecting my asthma. A dose of the flu would almost certainly land me in hospital.

    I actually wanted to get pertussis boosters for my husband and I, because we’re planning on trying for children soon, but the doctor basically scoffed at me when I asked, and said it’s something no one had ever enquired about (we’re in the UK). Now some months down the line and the NHS are going to be offering them to pregnant women because of the whooping cough outbreak here. Still wish I could get one for my husband though.

  14. I have to say I’m disappointed about the “old people” crack. I wish people were taught to respect their elders. Especially if they get sick.

    Sadly I have to make an appointment with my semi-retired doctor to get a flu shot. The pharmacy that promised them a few years ago had us standing in line (in the rain, how do ya like them apples) then told us and a dozen other people in line that they were out, come back in 2 days.

    1. It wasn’t really an “old people” crack as much as a pointing out of the demographic typically viewed as susceptible to pneumonia combined with a dysfunctional family crack.

  15. Okay, I AM going to be a pedant, but for a good reason. The stomach thing you had was probably not the flu, and it spreads misinformation when everyone calls it that. It was probably Norovirus or something similar. A flu shot probably wouldn’t have helped with anything that you had go wrong last month. But it will keep you from getting influenza and everyone SHOULD get one anyway!

    And all that being said, I’m really sorry you had such a bad month!

  16. YEAH, I just chose preschool too. New vehicle to replace the one that keeps falling apart? Or someone else taking care of one of my children 2 mornings a week? In the end, there was no competition. I only wish both my kids were old enough for preschool. :P

    Sorry about all the recent trauma. But I’m going to get a flu shot now, thanks.

    1. Thanks for getting your flu shot!

      And holy shit… there are very good colleges out there that cost less than what I pay for preschool. But my kid can spell the names of most of his favorite video games so it’s probably worth it. I also send him for 11 hours a day.

  17. Children are the ultimate disease vector. Immunize!

    I get the flu shot to protect myself from college students, as well as to protect the older members of my family. The stats are pretty clear that for the year following a bout of influenza, an elderly person’s risk of hospitalization or death goes way up.

    Any infection can cause an increase in clot formation, and the flu is really good at causing lots of little seeds of blood clots that can grow up to be big heart or brain stopping clots.

    Because of this, not getting a flu shot if you are around the elderly is irresponsible. If you work in a hospital and don’t get a flu shot, you are not just irresponsible, but a flaming asshat.

  18. Ashamed to say I haven’t gotten any shots.

    Reason: can’t afford them.
    And I can’t even afford health insurance.
    Why? Because the guy that runs the local chain of stores I work at is a cheap bastard that would be a good match for Mitt Romney-style intelligence.

    I am vaccinated against anthrax and smallpox, though, thanks to the US govt.

  19. I see that you, like my family, use the word “flu” to refer to an illness that makes you barf. In fact, in my family that was the defining characteristic: It wasn’t the flu until you barf. As a kid, when I first heard they had shots against the flu, I was so optimistic–no more barfing! But it turned out that that “flu” was nothing like what my family called the “flu”, it was more like a really bad cold. Since then, I have met those who insist that all instances of the barfing sickness were in fact food poisoning. What does science say? Does the barfing flu exist or not?

  20. From what you have described, it doesn’t seem like the “flu shot” would have helped at all. The flu shot is for a specific virus (or a set of strains of that virus) for “influenza” — the disease that killed something like 100 million people around 1918.

    As mentioned in the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on “Influenza”, bad colds and even stomach “bugs” are called “flu” but are not this virus.

    Pneumonia is any lung inflammation, and can be caused by a whole variety of agents (viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc.) which are present everywhere. People generally get it when their health is otherwise compromised, which is why it used to be the proximate cause of death for people who were already dying of something else.

    This isn’t to say that a flu shot is a bad idea. Like polio, etc., vaccinations, it protects _you_ from a really nasty disease _and_ it protects _other_ people (like people too old, young, or sick to get the vaccination themselves) by making it harder for the virus to spread.

  21. I’m all for immunizations, although I have to wonder why we don’t also discuss personal hygiene. I very rarely get sick and it’s because I follow a strict regimen while I’m outside my house — never touch my face at all, for any reason, with my hands when they are unwashed. As soon as I get home, thoroughly wash hands for 20 seconds or so. But, I also don’t have children, so that probably helps.

    Tdap, yes, I got that a year ago, it made my arm really sore for a couple days. :( Flu shot, no sorry, I know, go ahead and hate me. You don’t understand how much I am terrified of needles. I know, it seems small when you’re considering the death of your children. But the thought of having to get a shot every year, no, I can’t handle it. I haven’t gotten the flu in over 20 years, so it doesn’t seem that important. Honestly, washing my hands has kept me from getting a lot of things, so I’ll just keep doing that. Sorry if I seem flippant.

    1. Yep. Pretty flippant. Just because you don’t get sick doesn’t mean you’re not passing things on… and it doesn’t mean you CAN’T get sick and you CAN’T pass things on.

      The flu shot? You can get one that’s not even a shot. It’s a liquid that goes up your nose. Also, there’s a needle that’s not really even a needle, it’s 90% smaller and it barely punctures the skin.

      I don’t disagree that washing your hands and good hygiene are important, but they’re not a complete solution. And thinking that hand washing is enough is dangerous.

      1. The last several flu shots I’ve had have been virtually painless. Two years ago was best, I felt a tiny bit of pressure, like someone poking my arm gently with a toothpick, which stopped as soon as they pulled out the needle.

        Last year, there was a slight burning sensation but no real pain. No inflammation or soreness. (Sometimes in the past, with flu and other shots, my upper arm felt slightly sore for a couple of days, but not distractingly so.)

        This year’s shot was almost like two years ago, just a smidge more pressure.

        I think they are using thinner needles or better adjuvants or something. If you have childhood memories of Dr. Evil with some giant horse needle, you should really try again.

        I haven’t had the nasal spray FluMist. The page I linked to says it can cause runny nose and other mild cold-like symptoms, but it doesn’t say how common those side effects are. They may be extremely rare or quite common. Still, I’d much rather have a cold than the flu, which is a serious, life-threatening illness.

        If you don’t have a medical reason for avoiding the flu vaccine (such as an allergy to chicken eggs), go for it! Worst case, you’ll decide you still really, really don’t like needles, but you’ll impress yourself with your bravery and you won’t get flu this year. Best case, you’ll decide it really isn’t so bad after all and will join the vast throng of vaccine-encouragers! We have parties with cake, balloons, teddy bears and sloths, t-shirts and smug self-satisfaction. How could you go wrong?

        P.S. As I finished writing this, I realized it is mostly directed to BlackCat, not Elyse. But I’m afraid I’ll lose the whole thing if I try to cut and paste it to a new “reply”…

    2. You know how you get over a fear of needles? You keep getting stuck with them.

      I have an intense phobia of needles but have managed to nearly get rid of the “fear of shots” portion of that phobia. That has happened because I go. and. get. my. shots. After many incidents of passing out/nearly passing out/throwing up/etc., getting a shot now just makes me a little anxious. I tell the person giving it not to show me the needle and I’m fine.

      Elyse is right, too, the flu shot needles are teeny and barely feel like anything. If you’re super nervous about it, ask for a pediatric sized needle but it will take a little longer to get the shot, then.

      It’s good you haven’t had the flu in 20 years. Because when you do get it, you will want to line up for a flu shot every year after that. I got it when I was at my healthiest (and a strict hand washer) and I was so sick that breathing hurt. And I was sickly for weeks after the main bout of illness (when I could barely move from my bed) had passed.

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