The Flu Shot Debate
I’m sure that you’ve heard this debate many times:
“Why should I get the flu shot? Half of the time they don’t even get it right.”
“It’s not natural to vaccinate.”
“You know, it probably won’t work, and it will probably make you sick too.”
As caregivers and COPD sufferers, you will hear this every year, and sometimes it will be from those closest to you. There may even be a moment, while your friends or family are questioning getting that flu shot, that you wonder if they truly love you. I mean, wouldn’t they want to do whatever necessary to keep the flu far away from someone with COPD?
This is where you will need to think beyond your initial reaction and try to think through their concerns. There has been a great amount of publicity around the assumption that vaccines cause autism. However, the vast majority of doctors adamantly speak to the fact that the studies have not shown this kind of correlation. The cases of autism are related to small children, but in the mind of many people it causes questions about all vaccines. There have also been a few years that the flu shot itself was not the ideal vaccine for the particular strain of the flu that was spreading. The result was many people that received the flu shot ended up sick anyway.
As you can see, those two concerns leave you with a tie. Vaccines: 1, No Vaccines: 1.
Here is where things change. It is the conversation that visits the thoughts of dying from a treatable illness. There is a reason that the first people to be vaccinated are the sick (particularly acute illnesses), elderly, and infants. It is because their immune systems are not running at full capacity to fight off a round of the flu. Think about how sick you (normally healthy) can get from the flu. Now take how you felt with the flu, then double, or triple it. I imagine that you would not want to entertain the thoughts of just how difficult that would be.
It is true that sometimes the vaccine is not ideal for the particular strain of the flu for that given year, but wouldn’t it be better to take a chance on getting it right than to opt out of taking it altogether? You won’t be shielded at all by a vaccine that you never take.
When the conversation comes up with family or friends that are with the COPD sufferer often, it is important to make sure that they understand that taking the flu shot for themselves is great to help keep them healthy, but more importantly, it is another layer of protection. If you, the caregiver, family member or friend, do not ever develop the flu because of getting the flu shot, then that lowers the chance of the COPD patient from even being exposed to it.
Overall, try not to let someone’s decision to decline a flu shot change your feelings for them. It is a personal choice, and as long as that person is not around everyday, there are other precautions that you can take. Good hand-washing practices and not touching your face are two very important practices whether you get a flu shot or not. Just doing those two things can greatly increase your chances of avoiding the flu during any given season, and isn’t that the goal here? The healthier you all stay, the greater the chance of a hospital-free year for your loved one with COPD.