To Flu Or Not To Flu?

Flu Shot

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I’ve always mused that if our government pulled one over on us, they’d do it with vaccines. (Alien DNA virus from the X-Files anyone? What about the demonic Croatoan virus from Supernatural?) Yes, I get that those are fictional. That’s why I’m not an actual conspiracy theorist. I’m just open to the possibility of a widespread genetic experiment and cover-up. I am a writer, after all.

That being said, I’ve never gotten the flu shot until this year, when my doctors (and even the IV infusion nurse) urged me to do it, given the extreme immunosuppressant powers of Remicade. Oh and Imuran, can’t forget that puppy. They terrorized me that not only would I get the flu–miserable enough–but with my newly compromised immune system, it could spell disaster on a scale equal to the Titanic sinking–growing swiftly and gravely ill, extended hospitalizations, near-death experiences, and even worse–roommates and liquid-only or BART diets.

Say no more. I delayed for a week or two, then sucked it up and got it. I triple and quadruple-checked I wasn’t receiving a live vaccine (those do spell disaster for us Remicade folks). On the day of the inaugural injection I quintuple-checked. I’m guessing either the look on my face or the urgency in my tone motivated my doctor’s office to phone the CDC in order to confirm that the vaccine they were using wouldn’t kill my Remicade-and-Imuran-addled self. (The CDC asserted it wouldn’t). So far, so good. I hope.

Why am I so against the flu shot? I’m actually very pro-science, pro-medical advancement, and pro-vaccine in most other areas. And there are definitely populations (now including me) who are safer with a flu shot than not. But before this, I figured I didn’t need it. I was rarely if ever sick thanks to the super-powered immune system that ran out of things to attack and turned on my colon. I’d also read and heard that the flu shot doesn’t protect against all strains of the flu. I personally know more people than I can count on my fingers and toes who got the shot and then got the flu. The response from their doctor? “Oh, well you got a different strain than you were vaccinated for.” Riiiight. And they know that for sure because…?

So now that we’re going full steam ahead into cold and flu season, do you flu shot or not? Even if you’re not on an immunosuppressant but you’re flaring, do you want to risk compounding your problems? (And I’m not arguing for or against the shot here–by not getting it you could be setting yourself up for the aforementioned disaster just as easily as you might by opting for the stick). The flu shot is a personal choice that should be weighed by various factors such as your beliefs, work environment, whether you take public transportation/have exposure to vast segments of the general population, your other medical issues, etc.) Unless you’re a flu-shot veteran, this might not be such an easy question to answer. It wasn’t for me, and yes, I have had the bonafide flu before. I fully understood the consequences. (And after everything, my husband still didn’t get the shot, he’s dead-set against them).

Last but not least, what are the risks of the shot versus not for those in remission? posted the results of their Flu Shot and Colitis survey which also includes a link to an article from The Lancet entitled: “Vaccination and autoimmune disease: what is the evidence?” The article explores whether vaccinations trigger autoimmune reactions. If you enjoy geeking-out like me, you’ll find it an interesting read.