It’s that time again.
The CDC and other organizations have started publishing their influenza (aka ‘The Flu’) data and recommendations again in preparation for the upcoming flu season. To sarcastically oversimplify their guidelines, they basically recommend that everyone who can breath or has a pulse needs to get a flu shot.
Who knows – they might be right. That many people may need flu protection this year.
But – in case you haven’t figured it out already, I do NOT like Flu shots. In fact, I am VERY anti-flu shot.
Instead, I propose you seriously consider getting the nasal vaccine – FluMist.
Not because of conspiracy theory debates about whether sinister forces are working to kill us all or not, or rumored links to autism, or any other reason along these lines.
Pharmacists hear these objections and get questioned about these topics all the time.
They are not the reasons that I am so anti-flu shot.
So, you might ask, then what the heck is your main hangup?
It’s simple. I think flu shots block you from building up long lasting antibodies that your body can rely upon to protect you from similar flu strains in the future.
All pharmacists know that the conventional flu shot that you get in your arm only gives you immunity for a time period measured in months. Then the immune response goes away and the body forgets it ever saw that strain of flu before.
If there is one thing you can guarantee, it’s that the flu viruses are going to mutate. Quickly. And, it is inevitable that one of these days we’re going to end up with a killer flu circulating aroud the world.
If your body has seen one of the earlier versions of a flu it may protect you to some degree from the currently circulating flu virus. You hear about this happening all the time for people who didn’t get as sick as others because they’d seen a relative of the current flu sometime in the past.
This phenomenom will be mentioned in passing in articles in the newspapers, on the radio, on TV -even on the internet. But few people are aware of the fact that they will not be getting that kind of protection from the flu shots they got this season unless they end up getting the flu anyway.
So…. you ask…. what do you recommend we do instead, Mr Smartie-pants? Take our chances and get the flu?
Well, I guess that’s exactly what I recommend – unless you have a serious medical problem that would make the flu life threatening. At least what I recommend is equivalent to getting the flu.
Taking the FluMist vaccine is the same as getting the flu from an immune system point of view.
I’m a huge fan of FluMist – the influenza vaccine that is squirted up your nose.
FluMist actually infects your nose with the flu, and after your body fights it off you will have an immunity to the flu strains that were included into the vaccine that will last for many years. At least this has been the case for as long as FluMist has been on the market.
And – it has been reported, and I believe it to be true – that FluMist gives you better protection if the flu strain changes a little from what was predicted.
Think of it this way.
Visualize the flu strain you’re being immunized against as a 7 foot tall troll with a hunched back, a bad attitude, blonde hair, one blue eye and one grey eye. The shots only identify the virus as having a grey eye. That’s all the information they’re capable of communicating to your immune system. FluMist – on the other hand – handcuffed and hog tied the sucker and let your immune system get a good picture of its every physical attribute as it beat the snot out of him. Later, if a relative comes through with a disguise – but having a bad attitude and showing a hunched back and a blue eye – your immune system is likely to beat the snot out of it because it has enough information to know that there’s a family resemblance.
A pandemic or killer flu might just be that relative with the disguise. different enough to avoid the info your immune system got from the shot, but not different enough to bluff its way through if you had FluMist.
You could actually take your chances with the flu. But, I do not think this is a good strategy, especially right now. I am quite concerned that this year’s flu season could be a very challenging one.
So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to march my butt into my doctor’s office and get that darned FluMist vaccine squirted up my nose. I’m past the 49 year old cutoff for getting FluMist. Doesn’t matter. I’m going to twist my Doc’s arm till he/she gives it to me. It’s my understanding that the reason it’s not approved by the FDA for people who are older than 49 is that the company that invented it ran out of money and couldn’t finish the clinical trials. Think about it. You’re OK when you’re 49 and you turn into a pumpkin at 50? I got it last year, and I’m going to get it again this year. And so did and so are all the other members of my family.
(To share a kind of funny story with you, my daughter got FluMist a couple of years ago. She works for a drug development company, and – of course – all the people she worked with got the shot her company paid for. She called me up in the midst of the flu season and told me she was never going to get FluMist again. Concerned, I asked her why. She explained with a laugh that she was the only person who didn’t have the flu and everyone had been out for going on a week – and she was being expected to keep the projects on schedule all by herself. True story.)
One last note – FluMist does contain weakened live flu viruses. Not everyone can take it. As with all medicines – there are risks that are uniquely associated with it. But, I think it’s a WHOLE lot safer than getting the flu for most.
As always, these decisions must be made in consultation with your physician. Pharmacists Pharmacist, Doctors Doctor. Ask him/her if you’re healthy enough to get FluMist… Seriously consider getting yourself protected this year. Stay safe.