December’s here and with it comes many things … the pleasures – and pressures – of Christmas. The joys of lots of parties and get-togethers (and myriad excuses to be drunk).
And of course, probably the time of year when germs seem to be at their germiest. Yep – it’s flu season.
And even scarier than that: It’s flu shot season.
Most people make appointments through their workplace or public health centre to get jabbed with the needle. And then there are people like me. Until it becomes mandatory (and something I can only avoid by feigning personal emergency and taking the day from work), I’m taking another pass on the flu shot.
Of course, I know what all the “believers” say: Why? It’s not a live virus. You won’t get sick from the flu shot. It’s egg-based. You might as well just toss in, everybody else is doing it, why don’t you?
So, if there was some crazy virus out there and the only way people could protect themselves was to jump into a net above a pit of venomous snakes and hope to get bitten as protection, I should do the same?
Yes, it’s a silly and far-fetched example to compare, but here’s my rationale as to why I’m not lining up for a flu vaccine:
1) The flu shot is especially recommended for those who are very young (babies and young children) and elderly, because they’re more susceptible to illness. I totally understand this. If I had a young child, I would probably go and get the flu shot. I have a co-worker who begrudgingly had his shot for this reason. I’m young, healthy for the most part, and really don’t think I need to be injected with something that may or may not protect me from something I might catch. I think I have to be cautious with my own actions health-wise, as well as the actions of those around me.
2) It’s been said that getting the flu shot cuts down on the number of sick days I’d probably have if I didn’t get the shot and had the flu. Know what? I’ve heard stories about people – perfectly well – who’ve gotten the flu shot and fell ill. Not everyone reacts the same way to things. That’s why we’ve got people who can eat anything put in front of them, and people deathly allergic to some of the same foods. So guess what? If I probably have the same chance of getting sick getting the shot as I do not getting it, I’m going to take my chances. I’ll wash my hands, wipe down my workstation with alcohol wipes and take my vitamins. If I take really good care of myself, I shouldn’t get more than a bad cold (and I’ve already had two of them). That’s what I’ve got an immune system for.
3) Personal anecdote. Five years ago, working at a car dealership, the boss arranged for a nurse to come so the employees could get their shots. I didn’t go to get lengths to hide my defiance, and one day, while talking with some other employees, my opposition emerged, and the “believers” started in on me. It’s not a live virus. You’d take your car in for care if it needed it; why not do the same for yourself. (I found this to be really lame, since everybody knows no two people react to something the same way.) And my absolute favourite, when I defended my stance by noting people who had fallen ill after taking the shot, including the company accountant’s husband: They were probably not feeling well before they took it.
Needless to say, I stood my ground, and two days later, the boss took the day off because he wasn’t feeling well.
So – perhaps to some people’s dismay – I’m going to take my chances again this year. Because in my opinion, I think people have forgotten the general tenets of personal hygiene, and that’s partly why so many of us get sick.
We sneeze in our hands or pick our eyeducts or noses, or go to the bathroom without washing our hands, and then turn around and touch handrails, buttons and doorknobs. Remember when SARS happened about three years ago? People got dirty looks for so much as sneezing on a subway. Now? It’s like it never happened.
I’m not saying that handwashing will eradicate the instance of flu. But maybe if we all try and do our parts to be cleaner – even as part of a personal experiment – it might prove to make a substantial difference.