Shot or Not? It’s Flu Season

By Frank Sheftel

As I noted in my last column, I spent the holidays in and out of the emergency room at Kaiser Hospital. I had a terrible cough and chest pains so bad I thought I was having a heart attack. My fever at its highest was over 104 and I was sore with aches and pains everywhere. I’m feeling better now but it wasn’t pretty. I didn’t get a flu shot. The doctor asked me if I wanted one. I declined. “I never get one of those,” I told the young newbie doctor. Bragging that I never get the flu.

I should have kept my big mouth shut. But I’m not sold that I should have taken the flu shot either. I’m apparently one of the 69 million Americans that believe, incorrectly, that the flu shot actually gives you the flu. It does and it doesn’t. It’s a form of the flu virus, but it’s a dead form of it. It only shows your body what the virus is made up of so it can fight off the actual live virus if you get exposed. I still don’t think I’d get one though. And that’s just my opinion.

I encourage others to. I just got over an influenza/bronchitis infection that had me in bed for weeks. So I’m banking that I’m good for the season. But I’m still not hanging out around my coughing and sneezing friends — I don’t want to take any chances. I understand now why Howie Mandel doesn’t shake hands or hug, and avoids touching door knobs.

We don’t realize how many times a day we come in contact with things that everyone else also touches. From escalator handles to door knobs to money to computer keyboards to elevator buttons and taxi cabs and subway seats. It’s a viral, toxic world out there. The nightly news has us running scared with images of overcrowded emergency rooms and dwindling supplies of the flu vaccine. So do what’s best for you.

The flu shot won’t give you the flu but it’s not going to 100% keep you from getting it either. If you’re afraid of catching the flu then of course the flu shot is one way to go. Or you can just lock yourself in your house and stock up on supplies and wait out the influenza epidemic. But as you’re all cozy and snuggled in your flu fighting fort, you better hope and pray your sneezing mailman isn’t sick as you open the letter from Uncle Frank telling you how he’s just getting over a bad case of the flu. Shot or not? The choice is yours.