Flu Shot or No Flu Shot? That Is the Question
An Unfortunate Coincidence or True Side Effect?
During the 2009 swine flu (H1N1) outbreak, there was a shortage of flu vaccine. Because I was living with progressive MS, I was given a priority dosage by the county health services. Within a few days, I experienced low-grade, flu-like symptoms. My physician assured me that my symptoms were a normal response to the flu shot and not to be concerned.
After a few days my fever broke, but the fatigue and muscle aches lingered for weeks. They actually worsened as time went on and were accompanied by new vision complications. After consulting with my neurologist, I got medication to halt an apparent MS flareup.
Gut Instinct vs. Scientific Method
Based on my experiences in 2009, I have been extremely cautious regarding the flu shot. This has greatly frustrated my primary care physician, as he believes strongly in the merits of flu vaccination. Often he remind me that “correlation does not equal causation." In other words, just because I had an MS flareup after the shot, it may have happened on its own.
He is correct. Yet, somehow, alarm bells go off before I consider getting another flu shot. Perhaps I had just been fortunate before then, but in 2009 I felt worse from flu-like symptoms and the MS exacerbation than I ever did with the actual flu.
Trying to Make the Best Flu Shot Decision
Each year scientists make their best educated guess as to which flu strains the vaccine should target. It is not easy because there are many variables that influence the ultimate effectiveness of the vaccine. It is also not an easy choice for me whether to get the flu shot or not. We know of numerous families in our community that contracted the flu over the past few weeks. Of those families, about half had gotten their flu shots.
In my family, I am fortunate to be the one who typically contracts the least amount of contagious illness. Perhaps it's a benefit from living with autoimmune illnesses, as my body's immune system is already running in high gear. Speaking only for myself, the choice not to have a flu shot has been satisfactory so far this year.
Did you choose to get a flu shot? Why did you make the choice? How have you fared so far?
Video: Flu Vaccine Side Effects
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