Every October, the theme from Jaws plays in my head. Over and over and over again. I can feel all the germs coming—one of the many joys that comes with parenting a four-year-old.
My daughter Syona’s annual appointment for her flu shot is booked. This is her second year of being vaccinated, and I intend for it to be an annual tradition.
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Prior to having Syona, I was pretty ambivalent about the flu shot. I would get it some years, but not others. My decisions were based on convenience. A flu shot clinic at work? Sure, sign me up. Need to book a doctor’s appointment? Forget it!
However, my feelings changed after Syona’s second Christmas. We all came down with the flu and had to completely cancel our holiday plans. We spent the entire vacation in our pyjamas, taking turns playing the fun game of “who has the highest fever?”
The next fall, at her three-year checkup, I asked our doctor about the flu shot. She remembered how sick we had been the previous year and thought it might be a good idea. There were a lot of reasons for Syona to get the flu shot. She’s tiny, and a week or two of poor eating habits can lead to her losing weight. She has cerebral palsy, and has very stiff muscles as a result. A cold or flu impacts her muscles for weeks, causing painful tightness, spasms and digestive issues. She’s miserable when she’s sick (although, who isn’t?) and isn’t a whole lot of fun to be around. So saying “yes” to the flu shot seemed like a no-brainer.
However, there was another set of non-personal reasons we said “yes” to vaccination. Because of Syona’s special needs, we’ve encountered people we would never have met otherwise. Many of these kids have comprised immune systems, and some end up in the hospital if they catch the flu. See, when Syona gets the flu shot, I’m not just protecting her. I am doing our small part in protecting those who are around her as well.
“Every year in Canada, influenza causes up to 20,000 hospitalizations, and approximately 4,000 deaths. Getting a flu shot for you and your loved ones not only protects your family from this serious illness. It also protects infants and other vulnerable people in our communities who may not be able to take the vaccine themselves,” explains Dr. Bert Cellupica, a paediatrician at Maple Kidz Clinic.
I know flu shots are controversial for many families. I won’t for a moment judge or try to infliuence anyone’s choices. I think we all need to make sound, informed decisions. I don’t use antibacterial soaps at home, we mostly eat healthy, homemade meals and I try to use green products when I can. I know that the flu shot doesn’t guarantee protection from all germs that come our way. But when it comes to increasing the odds of protecting my overall health, and that of my child—as well as the most vulnerable people in our community—you can sign me right up.
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And it’s exactly for these reasons that getting a flu shot is quickly becoming an annual family tradition. Now I just have to wait until this cold goes away so I can go and get my flu shot, too.
Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.