I am not an automatic nay-sayer on all vaccines. I think that there are people who are good candidates for vaccination, but others who are not. The decision to vaccinate is up to each person, with the guidance of their care provider.
This flu season I have an interesting dilemma. Should I be vaccinated? Should my daughter? These are separate, yet related questions.
Let's start with me. I'm a healthy woman in my 20s who has never had a flu shot. I'm not currently involved in patient care, but do work in a clinic, and in public venues where I can easily be exposed. So far, not very convincing that I need either shot, but there is a small concern.
The trick is entering my child into the equation. I'm a single mother. If either myself, or my child get sick, there will be missed work. If I get sick, who will watch my active preschooler? Now I'm starting to waiver, after all keeping my daughter healthy is very important to me. Hmmm...let's switch to thinking about my daughter now and see if there's more clarity.
My daughter is a highly active preschooler, who goes to daycare full time and is exposed to children of all age ranges. This puts her at an extremely high risk for contracting and spreading all sorts of illnesses. Some of the children there are under 6 months old and cannot be vaccinated. Their parents are relying on the other children to be immunized to protect their little ones. For the good of society it appears that my child should be vaccinated.
Here comes the problem, my child is immune compromised. She's at a high risk of catching respiratory and GI illnesses. You're thinking duh you should definitely do it. Problem being, immune compromised individuals should not receive flu mist because it contains live virus.
I prefer the live attenuated forms of vaccines. Flu mist provides exposure to the antigens, where the body would normally encounter them. It also provides a wider variety of antigens than the shot usually does, which makes it better able to protect people during antigenic drift. Since the virus is live, many of the questionable vaccine additives aren't used as they would inactivate the virus. Of course, live virus poses a very remote risk of reversion to the wild type, or infection with the weakened form (like has been seen with Polio.) I should avoid using the live form myself, to limit my chance of passing on the attenuated form of the virus to my daughter.
So my daughter could be vaccinated with both flu shots. She is 3 and has never had a flu shot, so she will require 2 shots for seasonal, and 2 shots for H1N1, flu coverage. See where this one is going? The shots contain a lot of the things that could possibly be dangerous. For instance, most of the flu shots are from multi-dose bottles. Since they are drawn from multiple times, they contain thimerosal as a preservative. So my child could be receiving 4 doses of thimerosal in less than 2 months time. After reading the research, I'm still not convinced whether thimerosal is safe, or harmful. To be prudent, I would rather avoid it.
There will be some single dose H1N1 shots available, which will be thimerosal free. When they will be available, and if they will be available in my county, is an unknown at this point. The other issue is that flu shots contain antibiotics. I avoid the use of antibiotics, and don't particularly want myself, or my daughter, to be exposed to them unless necessary.
I'm still facing my quandary. My daughter is the one who needs the most protection. She's the one who has the highest risk of exposure, and the greatest chance of infection. If I get vaccinated, she'll still have a major exposure at daycare, but I will hopefully stay healthy and able to care for her. Of course, its likely that I will remain healthy without vaccination.
I want to choose the option with the least harm. At this point, I'm favoring vaccinating my daughter, but waiting for thimerosal-free shots to be available. As for me, maybe I should just look into a back-up provider, like a family member, who can care for her if I get sick. After all, the flu isn't the only bug out there! I'll continue to keep us in the best of health by following basic wellness guidelines, no matter what my decision.