Protect the Herd!

It’s the season for sneezing, puking, and coughing, aka flu season. I, like everyone else in my family, got my flu vaccine early and have so far managed to avoid the plague that is going around my office. Vaccination has been a hot topic this year, and the fact that we guessed the wrong flu strain has certainly not helped the public outcry (Pipe down, Buster, you try predicting an ever-evolving virus!). But the fact is I don’t get vaccinated for me. Yes, with my chronic illness it is intelligent for me to get vaccinated. Yes, my immune system has significantly improved since introducing the yearly flu vaccine into my life. And yet, it is not the reason I’m so diligent about getting my yearly flu shot.

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credit: somethingofthatilk.com

Here’s a fun fact about me: I am much better at taking care of others than taking care of myself. As a caregiver, I give myself a B+ (I don’t hold back hair well). As a self-regulator I’m more in the C range. Luckily, my incredible fiance tends to keep my ass in line. But the fact remains that in stressful or busy times I may let my own health slip while trying to ensure that everyone else is running at optimal efficiency. I’m working on it.

Let’s put aside the flu shot for a moment and look at the more standard array of preventatives. Vaccines, in general, create antibodies and help reduce the number of infections for a particular illness. During childhood I was stabbed with a million of them and received oh-so-many wonderful boosters when I went off to college. There is no proof that vaccines cause autism or other mental disabilities. Andrew Wakefield’s study people are always quoting? It can’t be replicated. That’s right. And the patients’ data? It may have been tampered with.  It’s not fun having a needle (or three) poked in your arm, but it will not irreparably harm a child (allergies excluded).

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When my sister was born, she was extremely ill and had to be sheltered from as many diabolical ailments as humanly possible. A cold could send her straight to Children’s Hospital for days or weeks. If she had been exposed to the measles or mumps she could have died. Interestingly, our school district required vaccination except in the cases of medical conditions. For example, a child who has cancer may not be able to handle the vaccine being introduced to their body, but that’s when something magical happens. It’s called herd immunity. This means that so many people are vaccinated and the illness is so rare that exposure almost never occurs. So despite the fact that the child cannot directly be protected, they are guarded by the diligence of their peers. It’s brilliant! And, best of all, even if you’re not ill, it protects other vulnerable populations, such as the elderly. And, hopefully, we’ll all get old and benefit. I know that’s my plan.

Vaccination is a personal decision and should be discussed with your trusted medical professional, but perhaps keep in mind that your decision doesn’t just effect you. Your decision impacts your neighbors and community at large. Stay healthy!

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3 thoughts on “Protect the Herd!

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