The Flu Shot & The Porcelain God

It's cute and orange, but I still don't want to pray to it.
It’s cute and orange, but I still don’t want to pray to it.

I hate to puke.

Whatever you call it: technicolor yawn, tossing your cookies, ralphing, or my favorite… “praying to the porcelain god”, I try to avoid doing it at all costs.

I don’t think there is anyone who thinks it’s something fun to do. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

“What’cha up to?”

“Not much. I’m bored, so I’m just going to puke my brains out. Want to come over and watch?” 

I get a flu shot every year now, because I have zero desire to lose my lunch (or dinner or breakfast) or feel like a freight train has run over me due to the inability of other people to wash their hands or cover their mouths.

A fellow T1 asked in a FB status about flu shots and I was surprised to see the myriad of responses. Some were positive, some were negative, and some left me scratching my head, wondering where they got their info.

I realize that if you’re reading my blog, you’ve got at least a few brain cells to rub together. (Take that compliment and run with it.) You may already have an opinion on flu shots, so let me give you some facts. (And then I’ll give you my opinion, because… well, it’s my blog.)

Here’s what the CDC has to say:

Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older. The “seasonal flu season” in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May.

During this time, flu viruses are circulating in the population. An annual seasonal flu vaccine (either the flu shot or the nasal-spray flu vaccine) is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community.

So, read that last sentence again. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Sometimes it’s not about you. It’s about the people around you. It’s about the woman ahead of you in line at the grocery store with the premature son at home. It’s about the guy next to you on the subway who takes care of his elderly parents. It’s the schoolteacher. The bus driver. The retail store employee who can’t take a week off because the paycheck pays the rent.

And the CDC page about the flu continues on to say who should definitely get a flu shot:

  • People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
  • Household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.

Look! We’re on the list! Hooray for us! And wait… those people around you? Yep. They’re on the list.

Getting a flu shot may not prevent you from getting the flu. As they say, nothing in life is guaranteed except death and taxes. But the likelihood of death by flu is diminished by getting a flu shot, which can prevent flu-related complications, per the CDC.

“But the flu vaccine has live viruses in it! No way am I taking something like that! I’ll just get the flu!”

That would be a no. No, a flu vaccine cannot cause you to get the flu. If you have a flu shot, you get a vaccine with viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are not infectious, or with no flu vaccine viruses at all.  If you get the vaccine through a nasal spray, while it does contain live viruses, the viruses are so weakened that the CDC claims it cannot cause the flu.

Influenza is a respiratory illness, but for some (like me), we get additional symptoms for free – like fertilizing the lawn or your floor or the inside of your wastebasket. For those who do get the flu, you’ll recover in a few days (up to two weeks). For others, it can progress to pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections, sinus infections….or worse. I don’t want to be the “worse”. Hospitalization is worse. Death is worse.

(And healthy kids who die from influenza and didn’t get a flu shot? I can’t keep quiet about the need for everyone to get one. Check out Families Fighting Flu.)

You may have your reasons for not getting a flu shot. I’d love to hear them. Seriously.

If you haven’t gotten your flu shot, but plan on doing so, you can help the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation raise money by going to Walgreen’s or Duane Reade by October 31st and give them this coupon. The pharmacy will donate $1 for every flu shot, up to $100,00. I call that a win-win.

Now, onto my opinion.

I used to avoid getting a flu shot, down to flat out lying to my parents about getting one when I was younger. I’m petrified of needles and intramuscular injections. Seriously. What changed my mind? The realization that if I got sick, someone would have to take care of me and I would be putting them at risk and forcing them to take time off from work or taking them away from their own families. Financially? Being stuck in a hospital isn’t as bad as being stuck with a huge bill afterwards that could have been avoided.

Last year, we all got flu shots. And yes, when the flu came round, we did all get sick. ONE. DAY. EACH. Round robin style. I knew people who did not get a flu shot who spent weeks being sick – and then more weeks tending to other family members who got sick.

So, now I pull up my big girl pants, turn my face away and close my eyes while the nice medical person jabs me.

And the porcelain god in my house will hopefully have no one to pray in front of it.



  1. Saw an anecdotal exchange on Facebook last week from a NURSE friend of mine who complained that she didn’t like being *required* to get the flu shot every year just to keep her job, because she gets the flu from the flu vaccine (her words, not mine.) But the example she says for this year was that she felt sick for about 6 hours post-shot. I just have to shake my head. She has 2 small children – could have been any kind of kid germs brought home that got her sick and it just happened to coincide with her flu shot. I gave the following anecdote: last year, my husband, daughter & I all got the flu shot in September. We were at a holiday event with my friend and her 2 kids, and the oldest boy started feeling bad, had a fever, etc. We were all riding in the same car for several hours, probably ate off each others’ plates, etc before realizing he was sick. Her family hadn’t gotten their flu shots. They all got the flu in short succession after the 1st boy, and were down for the count for several days. I never got it, and neither did my husband or daughter. I get my flu shot EVERY YEAR, thank you!

  2. Okay I haven’t since I was in college. I’m one of THOSE people. But my reasons: when I think about getting it, I’m already showing the signs of a cold and therefore can’t get it anyway, and I put it off until I’m healthy and then lo and behold, it’s February! Or – when I did get it as a child, I always ended up sick at Thanksgiving time. Didn’t matter if I had the shot in September, October or early November. Sick during Turkey Day. The one year I forgot, I was healthy at Thanksgiving. So – no more flu shots.

    I know – you are shaking your head at me. I can see it through my computer screen.

    1. So, all I will say is this… You do not want to be pregnant with the flu. That’s why the docs tell those who are attempting to get pregnant to get a flu shot. I even gave you a coupon. How thoughtful I am!

      1. No – I know that. I’ve seen pregnant friends suffer through colds and headaches.

    2. I had a run of being-sick-at-Thanksgivings every year for a while myself. Turns out, it was related to the cat (and other allergens) that would be present at my Mom’s house when we were visiting. Fall allergies hit me the same time every year, and just happen to coincide with Turkey Day. Pisser.

  3. Hi, this is actually the first time I have read your blog, and I love your style. However, the situation is a bit more complex as exposed by the British Medical Journal in a series of articles (you can find some of these through Google), e.g. company sponsored studies which show benefit of influenza vaccination getting more attention than independent studies showing less effectiveness. Vaccinations are made yearly based on predictions of which virus will be the one around, and that prediction can be wrong leading to less than perfect protection. Having said that, I agree that patients in high-risk groups like those with diabetes should get a vaccination, I am just not sure about all the relatives, let alone the whole population (that would definitely be a very very expensive exercise). At Diapedia, the online textbook of diabetes, we try to gather state of the art, free from (big pharma) bias, knowledge about these things, to inform professionals; unfortunately, at this stage we have not yet done a systematic review/ written a page about this, but I hope we will get one with a reliable overview of pro’s and con’s in the future.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting! As drift happens, I am aware that vaccines become less effective, but I still maintain that it is worth receiving it, both for those who are high risk and the caregivers.
      Please, when Diapedia gets a page on this, let me know. I’d love to add it to this post to give all sides.
      Thanks again!

  4. You have changed my mind on this, and made me rethink my stance on flu shots as I’ve blogged about in past years.

    1. And that, my dear friend, makes me happy. Very happy.

  5. Amen to this. I’m the sort who catches everything, flu shot or no, (mostly just horrendous colds, thanks to the little kid factor) but I still get my flu shot & everyone in my family does too. It can only help.(them AND me)

  6. I’m the guy on the subway, afraid to grab the handrail for fear of what germs may be there. I get my shot every year. I think there’s a lot of truth in the “if you still get the flu, it’s not as bad if you’ve gotten the vaccine” notion. Good advice.

  7. “Pro Flu Shot” over here in Minnesota.

  8. I’m with you on the flu shots, but my favorite part of this post was: It’s cute and orange, but I still don’t want to pray to it.

  9. I’ll second Katie’s remark: “Pro Flu Shot” here in Minnesota. What is interesting is that I had my physical about 2 weeks ago. My internist told me to wait until October because he believes that August and September are too early.

  10. Yep, I’m already looking at the dates waiting on the letter to arrive on my floor summoning me for the stabs. My arm goes dead for the rest of the day but I will take that over the flu any day. Though I have to say, I’m not entierly sure that is the shot. It might have something to do with the doctor half punching my arm as they give me it. They think I will flee the needle. Dude, diabetic. I’d rather give it to myself and leave the WWE aside : )

    1. One year, I was actually able to take my flu shot home and administer it myself. No, I am not a healthcare professional. Don’t ask how I finagled it. I did it IM and not in my arm. 🙂

  11. […] support the great diabetes efforts of JDRF by participating in the following:     – Get your flu shot! Now! From September 1st through October 31st, Walgreens will donate $1 to JDRF per flu shot given when a […]

  12. In the early 1980s my wife and I got flu shots. Then we had several weeks of the most awful flu we had ever had. I think there was swine flu that year, and we read that the flu shot contained live virus. We had never been that sick before. We have not had a flu shot since that time. I am wondering if our sickness and reaction to the shots have prevented us from getting the flu since that time. Maybe we are now immune?? I doubt that, but we have not had any flu like illness that was at all bothersome since that terrible flu in the 1980s.

    1. The wisest words that were ever given to me about the flu vaccine came from the pharmacist who injected me two years ago. “You can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine, but please be aware that your body will be more susceptible to any germs that are around for the next 24 hours. Try to avoid large crowds or people who are sick as your body works the vaccine into your system.” It made sense to me…

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