Have you ever had a flu jab?

What with all the news about the coronavirus outbreak that originated recently in China, a few of us were talking yesterday about being vaccinated against influenza. As it happens, to my knowledge, I have never had a flu jab. Some people I’ve told about this were astonished and assumed I was some sort of anti-vax nutter, which I am not. I’m not scared of injections, either. In fact I’ve recently  had monster injections in my knees to help with my arthritis. It’s  just that I regard `flu as a relatively minor ailment and that it’s better to let nature’s own defences fight it off. It seems that this is in accord with practice both here in Ireland and in the UK.

The NHS recommends having a  flu vaccine if you:

  • are 65 years old or over
  • are pregnant
  • have certain medical conditions
  • are living in a long-stay residential care home or another long-stay care facility
  • receive a carer’s allowance, or you’re the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill .

Similar advice is given here in Ireland. It appears that, e.g in the United States, anyone over the age of 6 months is recommended (“with rare exceptions”)

I wonder why there’s such a big difference in practice on this? Are Americans just soft?

Anyway, as part of a totally unscientific study into this question I thought I’d see what fraction of my totally unrepresentative readership have actually had flu jabs via the poll below:

Of course other comments are, as always, welcome through the box below.


12 Responses to “Have you ever had a flu jab?”

  1. Roger Butler Says:

    I contracted ‘flu which 8 was an undergraduate student. It was the closest I have come to death. I never want to be that ill again. The real thing is so far removed from a cold or other infection.
    There is a sure test to see if someone has flu. Drop a £20 / 20;Euro note on the floor. If the patient has flu he will just leave it there.

  2. telescoper Says:

    I’m not sure but I guess those are people who are in the `at risk’ categories…

  3. I get the jab (or “shot” as we call it over here in the US) every year, simply because the flu is extremely unpleasant, and I’d rather avoid it.

    The public-health argument in favor of recommending it for virtually everyone is of course herd immunity. As a generally healthy person, I’m at little risk of dying from it, but if I get it I might pass it on to others who are at greater risk.

    The side effects are mild, and I believe the vaccine is relatively cheap to produce, so it’s hard for me to see a reason not to get it.

    • (Having just spent the past few days marking students’ essays, I cringe when I look at my pronouns in the second paragraph. “It” refers to the vaccine at first, and then switches without indication to referring to the flu. No doubt the meaning is obvious in context, but still I should know better.)

  4. There’s a few reasons why I get it.
    It’s also available for front-line health and social care workers.
    I’m not technically one of those, but I work on the same site as a hospital where many patients may have compromised immune systems, so the organisation pays for it.
    I also have young children.
    Also, spending a week feeling like you’re going to die sounds a lot worse than having the vaccine.

  5. Peter Lucas Says:

    The company I worked for gave it free of charge, because a large proportion of the workers are in safety-critical roles that involve them being together in the confined space of a vehicle. If a virus went viral (ha!) round the company it wouldn’t be able to fulfil its statutory duties.

  6. Dave Carter Says:

    I get it every year. I am now over 65, so get it free, but before that I used to pay for it. Going back a bit further LJMU used to provide it. Flu is not a joke, and the vaccination is very easy to get and totally painless. Easier to get at the chemist than the doctors’ surgery here.

  7. Mike Lee Williams Says:

    The reason it’s recommend anywhere is that it’s medically valuable. If it were free, almost any serious doctor would recommend it to everyone. Among the reasons for this are flu is an incredibly serious illness precisely for the people least likely to be immunized (the old), herd immunity is a thing, and the fact that many (most?) people who get the flu are asymptomatic, i.e. they give it to weaker people without knowing they have it themselves. For more on this, see “Experts: If You Don’t Get A Flu Shot, You’re Stupid. And A Dick”: https://www.nsfwcorp.com/dispatch/flu-shot/.

    But of course the reason it’s often *not* recommended universally is cost. You can quite reasonably make the case that it’s not worth it, which is indeed is what NICE (and therefore the NHS) does.

    As is so often the case, the US errs on the side of recommending a medical intervention. The root cause of this pattern in US healthcare is that the people who recommend treatment (the AMA, individual doctors, etc.) are not accountable to the people who have to pay for treatment (insurance companies and the entities and people who pay their premium). In fact medical associations, hospitals and doctors often have strong financial incentives to recommend treatment (although that’s not the case with the annual flu shot). There’s a dance between these two sides of the market about what is an isn’t covered, but the Nash equilibrium is much like the one in Academic Publishing: high prices and the purchasing of more journals/medical testing than the end user actually needs. If you’re interested in the weird economic incentives in the US health system (quite aside from the rank injustice of it), then American Sickness is a great read: https://www.anamericansickness.com/

  8. I live in the U.S. and received the flu shot this year for the very first time. I never had one before, for reasons similar to those you list. I took the shot/jab this year as a precaution because I am about to start a medical treatment that wipes out some of the immune system (targets B cells). I didn’t want to suddenly be vulnerable to a potentially life-threatening illness that could so easily be prevented.

  9. Paul Stevenson Says:

    I’ve had it, though I’m not in an at-risk group, because my University offered it to me for free while I was a campus warden, living on campus free-of-charge in exchange for pastoral care duties. Why refuse a free vaccination!?

  10. […] a month ago I wrote a post in which I stated that I’d never had a ‘flu jab. After having people describe to me what `normal’ seasonal influenza is like I am bound to […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: