Family life

Do your kids get the flu shot?

Tracy's girls don't, but it doesn't stop her from debating the issue each year

By Tracy Chappell
Do your kids get the flu shot?

To jab, or not to jab? That is the question

This has always been a subject of parental hand wringing for me: to jab or not to jab my kids at flu season?
Historically, I’ve been in the “no” camp. Before I had kids, I only got the flu shot once, and of course, it was the year I got very sick. I don’t correlate the two, but at the same time, I didn’t feel compelled to do it again. After I had Anna, the question came up again. In my gut, I didn’t want to do it. Because Anna was home with me all the time the first winter, then in a two-day-a-week daycare situation the next, I chose not to get her the flu shot. Same with Avery.
Except for the H1N1 year, neither child has had the shot (and I debated that year, back and forth and back and forth, before giving in to the fear). Something about the flu shot doesn’t feel right to me. And this is just my personal feeling — I wish I had some grand political/cultural/scientific statement to make, but I don’t. It’s the same feeling I get when my doctor tells me about new vaccines I need to give my kids each year. And let me be clear that I am absolutely pro-vaccine, I just feel nervous about “new” vaccines, which make me picture my kids as guinea pigs for these chemicals being injected in their bodies. How can we be sure down the road what all these different injections will or will not do for them?
You have to trust. And that’s very hard to do. After all, these are my babies, and these are the decisions I’ve been entrusted to make on behalf of their bodies, their future. It’s simple in a world where people aren’t dying of polio because of vaccines, sure. But it’s not so simple in a world where baby bottles and baby wash have carcinogens (and you know that groups have been screaming these claims for years, and you trusted that government regulatory bodies wouldn’t allow dangerous things like this to happen. Until you realize that they do, every day).
Anna has always been a very, very healthy kid; Avery seemed to pick up things more often than her sister, but nothing too terrible. So I never regretted passing on the flu shot. Except last year, when Avery got really sick with a stomach flu — she was throwing up nearly every half hour overnight and all through the next day. I tried to manage it through instruction from Telehealth Ontario, but ended up needing to spend most of the next evening in Urgent Care with her, she was so lethargic and dehydrated.
As I cradled her in my arms, I thought, could I have prevented this horribly scary 24 hours with a simple needle? The truth is, I’ll never know. Because the flu shot only protects against specific strains, who’s to say Avery wouldn’t have gotten this flu anyway? And no one else in our house caught it. But I admit, this year, I'm debating again.
Some people see it as irresponsible not to get the flu shot. I say you should feel confident that the benefits outweigh any potential risks. What do you think?

Photo by Sanofi Pasteur via Flickr

This article was originally published on Nov 28, 2011

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