“It was the best of [shots], it was the worst of [shots], it was a day of wisdom, it was a day of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.” These words, mostly borrowed from Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, strangely popped into my feverish mind after my daughter and I went to the doctor to get our flu shot. My fever and muscle pain have subsided. But, I have to say that I am still feeling as much conflict as I was during my reciting of the classics while shaking from influenza like symptoms under the blankets on the couch.
One fact of life is that raising kids is hard. While I may only have two daughters right now, I can feel the anxiety of Gil in Parenthood when he says, “Well, great! Let’s see how I can screw up the fourth one!“ In the ongoing debate for and against vaccination, I think it’s this fear of “screwing up” that causes parents to wring their hands while considering the options. For us, vaccinating our children is something we both agreed was important…until we considered the flu shot. Out of our eight years of parenting, we have only given our daughter this vaccination one time. Now, though, the state has swiped in and made the decision for us.
According to the IAC only the states of New Jersey and Connecticut require children ages 6 through 59 months to receive an annual influenza shot. Living in Connecticut, with a four year old in preschool, this means we have no choice.
Feeling efficient and brave one day, I walked into the doctor’s office and told them that my daughter and I would both get shots to please “The Man” and heed his advice. To my surprise one of the nurses giving the shots was the Borg Queen! Apparently, she overheard me and responded, “Brave words. I’ve heard them before, from thousands of species across thousands of worlds since long before you were created. But now they are all Borg.” Following this creepy monologue, she pinched my arm and gave me my shot. As I sat contemplating whether I was half sheep, I was pleased to see another nurse with rosy cheeks float down with her umbrella and give my daughter her shot chased by a spoon full of sugar . While this encounter left me feeling puzzled, I was pleased that the Borg Queen and Mary Poppins accepted our insurance and that we wouldn’t be charged for being infected…I mean protected…by the vaccine.
By the time we arrived home, I was becoming aware that the experience my daughter and I shared was not actually working out to be all that similar. She was in love with her tiger striped Band-Aid and if you were to ask her about the flu shot she would channel Tony the Tiger and respond, “They’re Grrrreat!” I, on the other hand, began to slip into a feverish state with shaking and muscle pain. Sadly, because it was all pretend sickness, I had all the joy of being uncomfortable without the lack of hunger. Reflecting on this I remembered the line in The Devil Wears Prada and snickered as I thought, “I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight.” I was also thinking that I wasn’t even going to get that benefit! Oh well…
So, you may ask, will we get the flu shot again? I’m not sure. I do know that if we do get it, I will continue to be a pain and insist on getting the single-dose of the vaccination that does not include Thimerosal, a mercury based preservative. At this point, next year’s decision will have a lot to do with how we do with the flu season this year. According to the CDC, it is common that the flu shot will protect the person vaccinated about 60% of the time. I am not sure that I am impressed with those numbers. But, I will follow the advice given in Mulan, “Reflect before you act,” in considering whether to get the vaccination in the future. For those of you who are still deciding what to do as we head into flu season I send you healthy thoughts and quote Star Trek, “Live long and prosper.”