I’m not here to start any kind of vaccine debate because as much as I like to stir up trouble and rile people up, this is one of those topics that’s just too personal. I’m not here to get our hormones to bubble over and make a mess. That’s our significant other’s job, I’m pretty sure. So please just understand that.
It’s no great secret that flu shots are recommended for pregnant women. There has been a plethora of research to support it in the past decade. Studies show that it reduces the risk of having a full course of influenza and that it can provide immunity to infants up to 6 months after birth when they can get a vaccine themselves. And there have been equally large volumes of research to show that it’s safe for pregnant women and the general public.
In fact, I read an article just today that cited a study showing that pregnant women who get the flu shot are hospitalized 50% less with the flu than those who don’t get it, which I think we can all agree is a pretty good deal. Frankly, anything we can do to keep ourselves healthy sounds like a great idea to me.
But, I’m not getting a flu shot. And to be perfectly honest, I really wish I could.
A fun fact that very few people know is that the flu shot is harvested in chicken eggs. So when you get that shot into your arm, you’re getting injected with a vaccine, but also with eggs. I know this is kind of gross, but it’s the way it’s always been done. And that’s where my problem is.
I’m not a vegan (trust me, I’m a huge fan of butter) but I am allergic to eggs.
I’ve been allergic to them my whole life and while I’ve learned to eat around them (most of the time), there is no getting around them when it comes to flu shots. The shot, the mist, all of them contain eggs and so I’ve gone 28 years now without a flu shot. And while I know plenty of headstrong people have gone longer, I’ve also had the flu 5 or 6 times in my life. And you guys, if you’ve never had the full wrath of influenza, you are extremely lucky.
The flu isn’t a stomach bug, it isn’t a cold, it’s not just body aches for a day. The flu is a high fever, it’s the worst sore throat I’ve ever felt, it’s a cough that wears you down to your bones and it’s hurting over every inch of your body. It drags on for 7 to 10 days. After a while you begin to wonder if you will ever not feel like crap again because you also get really dramatic when you have the flu. (That’s an undocumented effect.) I have been sick plenty of times in my life, I’ve had brain surgery and breast surgery, and I would put the flu up there with some of the worst things I’ve ever felt.
The flu shot is imperfect and it’s obviously a very personal decision, but as someone who cannot get one, I beg you, if you can, whether you’re pregnant or not (but especially if you’re pregnant, for your sake), get one. Maybe this sounds selfish of me, I know that some people have reactions and feel lousy for a few days, but your herd immunity and my hand washing are the only things saving me and other people with egg allergies, from getting sick.
Even more troubling, because I can’t get a flu shot, my baby won’t have the immunity for the first six months of his/her life either. It means that my child is at risk for a largely preventable disease and that troubles me pretty greatly.
I have no desire to start a debate here, simply to make my plea to you on behalf of those of us who cannot protect ourselves. If you’re in good health, if you’re pregnant, if your kids are in school, and you’re not anti-vaccine for a good reason, get a flu shot. You won’t regret it, and I’ll be pretty grateful too.