by Emily Daniel
Photo courtesy of thetimes.com
For someone with a relatively robust immune system, I’m absolutely terrified of getting sick. Anyone who’s known me for more than a couple flu seasons will attest to this—and if they knew me during high school, they’ll probably throw in a couple of funny stories about my almost Adrian Monk-like obsession with hand sanitizer, too. I’ll admit that my fear of disease sometimes borders on phobic, but honestly, I can’t understand why everyone else doesn’t feel the same way. Being sick is not fun at all. Who cares if I have to constantly wash my hands, go to bed early, and refrain from kissing? As tedious as these things can sometimes be, I hate feeling sick more than I hate all of them combined. I don’t know about you, but aches, pains, cramps, headaches, runny noses, and vomiting are all things that I want to avoid like—pardon the cliché—the plague. Given this, it’s probably no surprise that I don’t hesitate to get a flu shot every year. At almost twenty years old, I’ve never had the flu, and I plan on keeping it that way. I completely understand all the misgivings folks might have about flu shots and vaccines in general, but I believe that the necessity to stay healthy trumps any and all possible complaints about them. To that end, I’ve compiled a short list of the most common reasons I hear for refusing to get a flu shot below, along with my arguments as to why, despite these reasons, you should get a flu shot anyway.
- “I don’t have the time!”
I understand this argument, I really do. As college students with classes to attend, essays to write, labs to do, sports to play, art to create, hobbies to indulge, Netflix to watch, sleep to (eventually) get, and—who can forget?—exams to study for, we all seem to be short on that very precious commodity called time. However, I believe that, even as college students, a lack of time is not a sufficient excuse for refusing to get a flu shot. The CVS MinuteClinic is only a ten minute drive from campus, and in my experience, they’re usually pretty efficient about administering vaccines. When I went to receive my flu shot several weeks ago, I was in and out in about thirty minutes with almost no wait time. Best of all, the vaccine is free with most insurance plans, and they even provide you with a twenty percent off coupon for the next time you need shampoo or candy or whatever else you like to buy at CVS. However, for those of you who don’t have the time or means to make the drive into town, the University also provides flu shots in the dormitory common rooms at various times throughout the semester. The charge for the vaccine is thirty dollars, but I heartily believe that it is worth the cost if you cannot drive to CVS.
- “I hate needles!”
I certainly don’t like needles, but I am willing to endure them for the sake of my health. How-ever, I understand that others have a fear of needles that is far more debilitating, perhaps even a full-blown phobia. If you fall into the latter category or even if you really just don’t like needles, there is still a way for you to protect yourself from the flu. Many doc-tors’ offices now offer a mist version of the flu vaccine which is inhaled through the nose instead of being injected through a syringe. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the CVS in Monteagle offers this version of the vaccine, so you would probably have to receive it during any trips home you might take during the semester—and many University students don’t return home that often. Despite this, if you simply cannot abide needles, I strongly urge you to make every effort to receive the mist version of the flu vaccine, as vaccination is the strongest defense against this potentially deadly virus.
- “I believe that vaccines cause autism or other harmful defects.”
Although I respect the right of individuals to their own opinions and do not claim to be any kind of medical expert, I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to support this claim. According the Center for Disease Control, thimerosal, the preservative in vaccines most commonly accused of causing autism, is no longer present in most vaccines—and hasn’t been since 2001. Furthermore, the results of several studies as well as a scientific review by the Institute of Medicine suggest that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism.” In summary, it is very unlikely that vaccines cause autism. However, if you aren’t convinced and still don’t want to receive the one type of flu vaccine that does contains thimerosal, thimerosal-free versions of this vaccine are also available. Therefore, you really have no excuse not to receive a flu shot.
While I have stressed the idea that a flu shot is an absolute necessity for most people, obviously, there are some people who should not receive the flu vaccine, such as those who are allergic to eggs (many flu vaccines contain trace amounts of egg protein) or those who have suffered extremely adverse side effects (such as Guillain-Barré syndrome) after receiving a flu shot in the past. However, if being vaccinated for the flu does not pose a serious risk to your health, I strongly urge you to get out there and obtain a flu shot as soon as possible—you have no excuse not to! Believe me, come January, your roommate and classmates will be eternally grateful when you aren’t coughing and sneezing everywhere, putting them at risk of getting sick, too.