Why I Decided to Get a Flu Shot This Year

6

November 14, 2013 by Kimberly Beauchamp, ND

US Army (flickr)

US Army (flickr)

My left arm aches so much right now I can hardly lift it. I got my flu shot there this morning.

Go ahead, call me a hypocrite. It’s OK, I’ve been called worse. (Plus, I honestly don’t care what anyone thinks of my decision.)

I’m telling you here, in this public place, why I decided to go for the jab—not to open up a giant can of controversy, but to send a reminder that we never know what’s going on in someone else’s life. So have a little empathy and remember: if it isn’t your decision, shhhhhhh.

The Vigilant Naturopath (or: The Naturopathic Vigilante?)

When I was in school for Naturopathic Medicine, I listened attentively to the lectures on vaccinations and natural alternatives to them. I vowed to never inject my offspring with the lot of toxic chemicals they contained. I graduated, set up a practice, and continued to believe (and preach) that vaccines were something to be avoided if at all possible.

But then came my sweet little daughter. For the most part, she was healthy. But when she did get sick, she’d vomit profusely (an unfortunate result of the reflux she’d been born with,  which, incidentally, was not caused by something I was eating. Yup. Looked into that.). Her vomiting led to weight loss, which led to concern, as she was already a peanut.

When it came time to travel across the country to a place where pertussis (whooping cough) was endemic, I had a decision to make.

Was I going to expose this tiny being to a vaccination that:

a) could harm her in some way, and

b) might not even protect her from the illness if she were exposed? (I contracted pertussis after I was vaccinated. No vaccine isn’t a sure thing.)

In the end, I decided to get her vaccinated. It was a good choice, in my opinion. Which is what the choice to vaccinate always comes down to: personal choice.

We can go back and forth on the pros and cons of vaccinations, but ultimately each person has to make the best decision for themselves and their family based on their personal circumstances.

Anna Gutermuth (flickr)

Anna Gutermuth (flickr)

Here’s why I opted for the flu shot this year:

  • I have mild, intermittent asthma that gets worse when I have a concurrent respiratory infection. The flu is a respiratory infection. I like being able to breathe.
  • My father lives in a nursing home. If I come down with the flu, I won’t be able to visit him, probably for an extended time.
  • My father lives in a nursing home. If the flu is going around there, which it often does in institutional settings, I won’t be able to visit him (the home is closed to visitors during outbreaks).
  • I’ve had the flu. It sucks. My husband and I were out of commission for 2 weeks with it when I was in med school. My biggest accomplishment during that time was opening a can of dog food. It took another 4 weeks for me to be able to take a gentle walk around the block without breaking a cold sweat. Did I mention that it sucks?
  • My daughter had the flu 2 years ago. She was deathly ill. I don’t use the word, “deathly” lightly. It was scary.
  • I have 2 little children who depend on me to take care of them. Their father works very long hours and I don’t have family who can help out when I’m sick. I’m it.
  • I’m not on salary. No work, no pay.
  • I have never had any type of adverse vaccine reaction. I read the package insert in its entirety and I felt comfortable and confident in my decision to get the vaccination.

But, but, but

The flu shot won’t necessarily keep you from getting the flu!

I’m aware that the flu shot doesn’t provide complete protection from the illness. (No vaccine does.) But it decreases the risk significantly in people my age and with similar health status.

You’re a naturopath! Don’t you know how to heal yourself naturally?

I’m also aware of natural flu treatments and other ways to boost immunity without drugs. I wrote about some of them here and here.

You’re a naturopath! Didin’t you sign some form saying that you wouldn’t push drugs?

Not at all. In fact, part of my training included learning how to determine a person’s risk and  counseling them to make informed decisions. In the states where naturopaths are licensed, we can prescribe many medications. Often, naturopaths offer vaccinations in their office. I don’t know about you, but I like the idea that I can get a vaccine from an ND who may be able to handle any potential side effects. Which brings me to my next point.

What’s that you say?

When people ask me about vaccinations, I don’t have any blanket answers, but I do have a few suggestions.

Here are some of them:

  1. If you’re going to vaccinate a child, try to avoid combination vaccines and space the vaccinations out over time. Ask your pediatrician about alternate vaccination schedules and if they have access to single vaccines.
  2. For diseases that don’t pose an immediate threat (like Hep B for a baby who will have no foreseeable exposure to the disease), wait and get it later.
  3. Vaccinate, then test. You can ask your pediatrician to titer your child to see if they’re immune after each vaccine. Some children may only need one or two shots of a particular vaccine to build adequate immunity. (Note that this is not a generally accepted alternative to routine vaccinations.) In general, the older a child is when they’re vaccinated, the better immune response they’ll mount. The flip side of this is that some vaccinations are used to prevent serious diseases in the youngest children. It’s a balancing act.
  4. Give your child Vitamin Con the day before, of, and after vaccination. This may help reduce the chance of adverse effects from the vaccine. Infant dose: 150 mg of liquid vitamin C twice daily. Toddler dose: 300 mg twice daily as liquid or chewable.
  5. Give your child vitamin A (at the recommended dose for age) from purified  Cod Liver Oil on the day before, of, and after vaccination. This may help reduce the chance of adverse effects from the vaccine.
  6. Trust yourself. No one can tell you with certainty what the BEST thing to do is. It’s going to be different for every person, every family, every situation. Do your homework, make your decision, and relax and go with it.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is for educational and/or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health or that of a family member, you should always consult with a healthcare professional.

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6 thoughts on “Why I Decided to Get a Flu Shot This Year

  1. Sherry says:

    When I found out that I was pregnant with Nate with the H1N1 in full swing, I was so torn. I didn’t end up getting the vaccine because Mitchell actually caught the flu while I was trying to decide and I did not catch it from him.(Even if I was vaccinated immediately it would not have had time to take affect) I figured my super immunity of pregnancy was in full force (I tend not to get sick when pregnant) I was lucky, but I know others who were not, ending up hospitalized while pregnant. Good for you for continuing to weigh things constantly, this is why I respect your opinion so very much. The flu is surely not always mild.

    • I didn’t realize you went through that with Nate, Sherry! Another friend was pregnant at the time and almost died. So scary. Not that we want to make fear-based decisions, but it’s important to factor everything in when weighing the options.
      I feel so lucky that my children are “out of the woods” for a lot of the childhood diseases that I didn’t vaccinate them for. You’re taking a chance, either way. It’s so much harder to make the decision for someone else’s health! Some people will criticize you for not doing everything you can to prevent disease in your children, while others will chastise the choice to vaccinate. It is such a deeply personal decision.

  2. Karen Fuller says:

    I understand the argument that some vaccines may come down to personal choice, but the decision not to vaccinate for illnesses that were all but eradicated (such as Pertussis) and are now making a comeback has negative implications for everyone else. So unfortunately, I don’t agree that all these decisions are just about personal choice. People with health vulnerabilities are at much greater risk when people stop vaccinating for diseases that were all but eliminated in the 1960’s through 1980’s, such as Measles and Whooping cough. There are plenty of articles about this – here’s just one: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125570056

    Karen Fuller, ND

    • The public health argument is another whole issue. I generally don’t like being told what to do, so it’s always rubbed me the wrong way. That said, if I had a child with a life-threatening illness who was in school with unvaccinated kids, I’m sure I’d feel differently.

  3. hadtheradish says:

    So many connections to me in this post. I, like Sherry, was pregnant with Amelia when H1N1 was in full swing. With a November due date, I felt I was in the worst possible scenario for getting the flu while pregnant (more dire consequences the later you contracted it during pregnancy). I got the shot, and about 6 days later Maria got the flu. She too was very, very ill, and we also have no family in the area. My OB was saying that I wasn’t far enough out from vaccination to be “sure” that I was immune, and that the vac only confers protection in 60-80% of the cases (even if it contains the correct strain). It was a scary time. I was told not to go any nearer than 5 feet from my sick daughter unless absolutely necessary. It was so incredibly hard not to be able to comfort her in the way I wanted. After 6 days of high fever, she had her first fever-free day Saturday, and I went into labor on Sunday.

    Thank you for this post. I feel it is both a personal and public decision, but ultimately a personal one. And the judgement coming from friends and family (who don’t know the whole story) doesn’t help the decision at all. (sorry for the long comment…I know… “get a blog!”)

    • Wow. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so glad to hear that it had a happy ending, but it must have been such a difficult time for your whole family! I agree that the hardest part is the judgment that goes along with these decisions.
      My hope in sharing this post was to raise awareness of the process that (most) people go through when making the decision to vaccinate or not, and to give people some tools to help make it easier, whatever they decide.

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Disclaimer

The information contained in this blog is for educational and/or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health or that of a family member, you should always consult with a healthcare professional.

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